‘You can't protect the border what can you control?’: Patel criticised amid migrant crisis

25 November 2021, 18:28 | Updated: 25 November 2021, 18:37

Ms Patel said the drownings were a "dreadful shock" but described the crossing as "absolutely unnecessary"
Ms Patel said the drownings were a "dreadful shock" but described the crossing as "absolutely unnecessary". Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

The Home Secretary has faced criticism after making a statement to MPs about the migrant tragedy which saw 27 people die in the English Channel.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Today, during a ministerial statement, Priti Patel claimed there is "no quick fix" to the migrant crisis but Conservative MP Sir John Hayes told her she "needs to go further" with offshore processing of claims.

The MP said the Nationality and Borders Bill "will go some way to fixing a broken asylum system, gamed by traffickers, by economic migrants, and by rights lawyers".

He added: "She [Priti Patel] needs to go further, and that's why the common sense group of MPs have written to her saying we need to disrupt those criminal gangs, we need offshore processing of claims, and we need to turn round boats in the Channel as the law allows us to do.

"For people who voted to take back control have every right to ask the question: if you can't protect the integrity of the borders, what can you control?"

Read more: Living in Syria 'scarier' than risking life in Channel: LBC speaks to migrants in Calais

Read more: Shocking picture shows all that remains of inflatable dinghy used in Channel tragedy

Ms Patel said the drownings were a "dreadful shock" and described the crossings as "absolutely unnecessary" after renewing an offer of sending British officers to join patrols on French beaches during a call with French interior minister Gerald Darmanin.

But the scale of the crisis has been further illustrated by new figures from the Home Office showing asylum claims in the UK have hit their highest level for nearly 20 years, fuelled by soaring Channel migrant crossings and a rise in numbers following the coronavirus pandemic.

Figures show more than 37,500 asylum claims were made in the UK in the year to September, whilst the backlog in cases also reached its highest point since comparable records began, with more than 67,500 asylum applications awaiting a decision at the end of September.

Read more: 'It's not illegal to claim asylum': Former refugee speaks to LBC

Read more: 'Not just a British problem': UK ready to send ground support to France, minister says

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer hit out at the Home Secretary saying he is "frustrated" that she is failing to deal with migrant crossings effectively.

Following the "heart-breaking tragedy", the Labour leader said, as a former prosecutor, he "will take a lot of persuading" that the arrests could not have been made earlier.

"We've got to improve our law enforcement here because the people smugglers, the traffickers, have got a real hold on these desperate people, we've got to break that," he told reporters.

"I'm also frustrated that the Home Secretary makes no end of headline-grabbing statements but isn't doing anything to deal with this effectively."

Read more: Fishermen blocked RNLI boat rescuing migrants, caller tells James O'Brien

Read more: PM: We must break migrant gangs who are 'literally getting away with murder'

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds quizzed the Home Secretary about the existing surveillance capacity and what she will be doing to "increase that surveillance" on "properly managed safe and legal routes".

Addressing Ms Patel, he said: "Can I ask specifically about the Dubs Scheme. The Dubs Scheme was closed down having helped only 480 unaccompanied children rather than the 3,000 that it expected to help. Will that scheme be urgently reinstated?"

Mr Thomas-Symonds went on: "Then there is the UK Resettlement Scheme that was announced in February of this year, and today the Government has released the statistics on this.

Read more: Blue Light Together: Prince William unveils landmark mental health support for 999 heroes

Read more: Murder suspect has 'no known link' with Bobbi-Anne McLeod, police say

"It shows that in its first year only 770 people have been helped by that scheme, and taken with other schemes, it is only 1,171 people who have been helped to the end of September, when the promise from the Home Office was to help 5,000 people in its first year.

"What will be done to make good on that promise?"

Two more small boats carrying desperate individuals are believed to have arrived on British shores today.

Read more: Storm Arwen: Experts warn of 'danger to life' with 'blizzard conditions' and 75mph winds

Read more: Tube strike: Londoners face rail chaos as union goes ahead with action

One group wearing life jackets and wrapped in blankets were seen huddled together on board an RNLI lifeboat before disembarking in Dover this morning.

French authorities have arrested five suspected people traffickers in connection with the incident on Wednesday, and the French prosecutors' office said magistrates are investigating potential charges of homicide, unintentional wounding, assisting illegal migration and criminal conspiracy.