| 27 May 2024, Monday |

Migrant boats to be pushed back to France by Border Force

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel provided officials with new maritime law orders, that will make migrant boats in the Channel are set to be turned back by Border Force.

Ms Patel has instructed senior law officers to rewrite Britain’s interpretation of international maritime law to pave the way for boats to be intercepted.

The proposal, opposed by the French government, would allow the captain to make a judgement on whether a vessel should be turned around as it attempts to enter UK territorial waters. However the move also relies on a French vessel responding to a UK message and the government in Paris has rejected any role in supporting the policy.

More than 1,500 migrants are estimated to have illegally entered the UK this week and Ms Patel has threatened to withhold £54 million in funding if the French do not take further action to deter migrants from leaving in boats. “The Home Secretary was clear with the French interior minister that the British public expect to see results,” a spokesman for the UK government said.

In a letter to Ms Patel, France’s interior minister Gerald Darmanin warned pushback tactics would have “a negative impact on our co-operation”, reports The Times.

He also slapped down Britain’s request to set up a joint command centre in northern France that would include police and border control officers from both countries patrolling the coastline and the Channel.

The pair discussed the migrant issue at a meeting of G7 interior ministers in London yesterday but failed to reconcile differences.

Ms Patel told her counterpart the British public “expect to see results” from French efforts to prevent ongoing migrant crossings.

Sky News reported that the Home Office has been working for months to train Border Force to divert migrant boats back into the remit of the French coastguard.

Minister for Social Care Helen Whately said ministers were “looking at all the options”, pointing out migrants undertaking the crossings were embarking on a journey is desperately dangerous .

She said: “Of course we should look at all the options and do what’s best.

“And I think the really important thing here is the work we’re doing with the French and to support the French to actually stop people leaving in the first place.”

She added: “We want to deter people from embarking on that kind of dangerous journey.”

She said the every migrant on board a boat is fuelling the “puts money into people smugglers’ pockets, those organised international crime gangs”.

Reports suggest the practice of pushing migrant boats back towards France is likely to apply only to sturdier, bigger migrant boats and only used in “very limited circumstances”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We do not routinely comment on maritime operational activity.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that efforts to stop the crossings depended “to a large extent” on the ability of the French authorities.

Dan O’Mahoney, clandestine Channel threat commander, said efforts so far have prevented more than 10,000 migrant attempts, led to almost 300 arrests and secured 65 convictions.

Charities urged the Home Office to take a “more humane and responsible approach” towards asylum seekers and said humanitarian visas were needed to help “prevent the chaos of the Channel crossings”.

At least 13,000 people have now made the crossing to the UK in 2021, according to data compiled by the PA news agency.

Illegal migration is anticipated to be the subject of focus for the final day of the G7 meeting on Thursday.