British patrol boats have picked up migrant boats on ‘a number of occasions’ on the French side of the Channel
Border Farce Part 2: British patrol boats have picked up migrating dinghies on ‘a number of occasions’ on the French side of the Channel as pressure mounts on Priti Patel to cut crossings
- Home Secretary brings in top UK Border Force buyers for explanation
- An interior ministry source said border officials ‘just didn’t deliver results’
- Mail revealed how Border Force cutter went to France to fetch migrants
Priti Patel was under renewed pressure last night over the migrant crisis after it emerged that British border patrols have picked up dinghies on ‘a number of occasions’ on the French side of the Channel.
The Home Secretary is set to bring in the UK Border Force summit today to demand a statement – as well as a new plan to reduce the number of crossings during the summer peak.
In signs that Miss Patel’s patience is fraying, an interior ministry source said border officials “just weren’t getting results” — despite pouring tens of millions of pounds on the problem. Nearly 1,200 migrants have reached Britain from northern France in the past ten days.
A man believed to be a migrant is brought into Dover, Kent, on Thursday
A group of people believed to be migrants will be taken to Dover, Kent on Thursday
The Mail on Saturday revealed how Border Force cutter HMC Valiant crossed the sea border into French waters, picked up four migrants from a dinghy and delivered them to Dover.
An exchange on open radio frequencies revealed that British officers were negotiating the “legality” of the maneuver with a French patrol ship.
Now it can be revealed that it wasn’t the first time a British border patrol carried out the controversial manoeuvre. “There have been a number of times in the past four to five years where this has happened,” an interior ministry insider said. “It’s really rare, but have been there a few times before. It shouldn’t have happened.’
A dinghy carrying 15 Afghan refugees approaches the Greek island of Lesvos last year alongside the UK Border Force’s patrol boat HMC Valiant
In signs that Miss Patel’s patience is fraying, an interior ministry source said border officials “just weren’t getting results” — despite pouring tens of millions of pounds on the issue
The first results of an investigation into the latest incident are expected to reach the office of the Minister of the Interior today.
It is clear that there has been resistance to harsher responses at sea – including sending small boats back to France – from within the border force itself.
Sources accused the agency of a “lack of urgency” in tackling the escalating crisis.
Kent’s legal threat about unaccompanied children
A Tory-led council dealing with hundreds of unaccompanied children seeking asylum is preparing legal action against the Home Office.
Local leaders in Kent say the county has reached a “breaking point” and could request a judicial review to force Priti Patel to send the young people to other municipalities across the country.
This year, around 250 unaccompanied children, some as young as 12, have been smuggled across the Channel.
Last month there were 115, almost double the number in May last year, putting pressure on social services and finances.
“We are at a breaking point,” Matt Dunkley, director of children’s services in Kent, told The Sunday Times. ‘Beneath this lies a humanitarian crisis involving traumatized young people.’
The unprecedented number of solo arrivals includes a growing number of girls, raising fears that they could be forced into prostitution by criminal gangs.
A Vietnamese girl who arrived last weekend is said to have disappeared from a shelter.
A voluntary scheme that started in 2016 for other municipalities to take care of children has come to a halt.
The Interior Ministry authorized huge expenditures last year on new equipment to block and return migrant boats – including floating ‘booms’. But despite being tested in sea trials, the tactics have yet to be deployed in the Channel.
France – which received £28 million from British taxpayers in November to step up beach patrols – will only intervene at sea if migrants ask for help.
Border Force’s unauthorized collaboration with the French to escort small boats across the Channel also threatens to seriously undermine the Home Secretary’s harsh public statements.
“It is clear that ministers are not satisfied with the continued crossings and the lack of urgency to respond to them,” said a source at the Interior Ministry. “For more than a year, ministers have been encouraging the responsible team to adopt new tactics, supporting them with money and resources, but they just don’t deliver.
“As criminal gangs continue to profit, the Border Force frontline is under increasing pressure and our asylum system is under increasing pressure. The approach has to change.’
It is clear that Miss Patel will demand that the High Command of the Border Force explain ‘how and why’ a British boat entered French waters to escort a dinghy to British waters. She will also instruct them to draw up an action plan to reduce the number of crossings in the summer, including an update on the progress of Anglo-French cooperation.
There is also growing irritation in the Tory back seats, with one MP calling on the Home Secretary to reconsider the tactics used in the Channel and end the problem ‘once and for all’.
Tory MP for Dover, Natalie Elphicke, said: ‘The bottom line is that a new approach is needed to the small boat crisis that stops boats leaving France in the first place and returning them to France in the Channel.
“This is criminal activity, plain and simple. Border Force would not pick up a batch of drugs or weapons in the middle of the Channel and bring them to Dover.”
She added: ‘We have seen in other countries, such as Australia, that taking decisive and resolute action to turn boats back works and saves lives.’