'No reason' for asylum seekers to attempt Channel crossing, Priti Patel tells Tories

4 October 2021, 22:38

Priti Patel will address the migrant crisis during her Tory conference speech.
Priti Patel will address the migrant crisis during her Tory conference speech. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Home Secretary Priti Patel will tell Tory supporters that there is "no reason" for an asylum seeker to cross the Channel from France during her speech on Tuesday.

It comes as she is set to renew her vow to control the flow of small boats arriving into the UK by securing Britain's borders.

"France is a safe country, one not riven by war or conflict," the Cabinet minister will say at the Conservative conference in Manchester.

"There is no reason why any asylum seeker should come to the United Kingdom directly from France.

"We make no apology for securing our borders and exploring all possible options to save lives by ending these horrific journeys."

Read more: French police accused of shooting migrants in boats trying to cross English Channel

Read more: Number of migrant crossings so far this year more than double figure for 2020

Ms Patel will argue that clamping down on cross-Channel crossings will tackle the "greed" of the people smugglers who enable the migrants to make their journeys.

"What is happening in the Channel with small boats is unsafe, unfair, and unacceptable," she will say.

"From the vast camps outside Calais of mainly male, economic migrants, to the shocking images of people crammed onto flimsy boats crossing the Channel, exploited by people smugglers - vile criminals characterised by ruthlessness and greed, who even threaten to drown small children to line their pockets."

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The Home Secretary will add that it is "not unreasonable" for her immigration plan to be based on control, saying: "Britain will be fair but firm."

The Nationality and Borders Bill is expected to make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission, with the maximum sentence rising from six months' imprisonment to four years.

There are also plans to increase the tariff for people-smugglers behind the crossings, meaning those found guilty would face life behind bars - up from the current maximum of 14 years.

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Since the start of the year, more than 17,000 migrants have succeeded in reaching the UK - double the figure for the whole of 2020.

However, despite the sharp rise in the number of boats arriving on the south coast, asylum applications in the UK fell in 2020 to 29,456 - significantly lower than the 93,475 asylum applications made in France and the 121,955 made in Germany.

Ms Patel will also use her speech to touch upon the topic of violence against women and girls, following the rape and murder of Sarah Everard, as well as announcing tougher powers to rein in the protests of the likes of Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion.

There will be an increase in the maximum penalties for those disrupting motorways, while also criminalising interference with major roads, railways and the press.

Police and courts will have new powers too, in order to deal with the "small minority of offenders" who are "intent" on travelling around the country with the aim of "causing disruption and misery across our communities".