Work with us or risk seeing more migrants drown, Patel warns Europe

27 November 2021, 22:30 | Updated: 28 November 2021, 07:10

Patel said even worse scenarios than the 27 migrant deaths could occur in the Channel
Patel said even worse scenarios than the 27 migrant deaths could occur in the Channel. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

"Even worse scenes" than 27 migrants drowning in the English Channel will happen if European nations don't cooperate with the UK, Priti Patel has warned.

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The aftermath of the mass deaths has seen a diplomatic spat continue to play out, with the UK and France taking swipes at each other over how they have handled the crisis.

A letter to Emmanuel Macron from Boris Johnson, put out by the PM's Twitter account, led to Ms Patel being uninvited from a meeting with ministers from France, the Netherlands, Belgium and the European Commission in Calais on Sunday, where they will discuss the small boat crossings.

In the letter, Mr Johnson again proposed joint patrols to stop small boats leaving France, which Paris has rejected.

Ms Patel said in a statement: "As I have said time and time again, there is no quick fix, no silver bullet. The UK cannot tackle this issue alone, and across Europe we all need to step up, take responsibility, and work together in a time of crisis.

"We will not shy away from the challenge we face, and next week I will continue to push for greater co-operation with European partners because a failure to do so could result in even worse scenes in the freezing water during the coming winter months."

Read more: France suggests Boris Johnson 'regrets Brexit' as migrant crisis row continues

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

In the midst of the spat were 27 people who drowned on Wednesday, the worst death toll of its kind in the Channel.

Among them is thought to have been an expectant mother, children, and a 24-year-old Kurdish woman from Iraq who was trying to reunite with her fiancé.

In his letter to Mr Macron, Mr Johnson called for talks to begin on a bilateral migrant returns agreement, and again suggested joint UK-French patrols.

A French government spokesman said the proposal was "clearly not what we need to solve this problem" and it didn't "correspond at all" with what Mr Johnson and Mr Macron discussed on Wednesday,

He added that it appeared the PM's decision to tweet out the letter suggested he was "not serious".

Ms Patel has said her conversation with Gerald Darmanin, the French interior minister, were "constructive" on Thursday.

She did not use the term to describe their talks on Friday, when the spat escalated.

More than 25,000 people have made the perilous journey over the Channel this year, over three times as many compared to all of 2020.