Priti Patel sanctions 'pushback tactics' to send migrant boats back to France

9 September 2021, 07:18 | Updated: 9 September 2021, 10:28

Priti Patel has authorised Border Force to block migrant boats crossing the English Channel
Priti Patel has authorised Border Force to block migrant boats crossing the English Channel. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Priti Patel has authorised Border Force to block migrant boats crossing the English Channel under "pushback" tactics to prevent them reaching the UK.

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The special sanctions will be used for "limited circumstances" on bigger migrant boats, it has emerged.

It comes amid an ongoing conflict between the UK and France, which has seen a war of words around finding a solution to the migrant crisis.

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

However, Ms Patel made it clear to interior minister Gerald Darmanin earlier that stopping people making their way from France to the UK on small boats was her "number one priority".

She warned her French counterpart that the British public "expect to see results" over the migrant crisis.

On Monday alone, over 1,000 migrants had attempted to cross the Channel, with France only intercepting 14 crossings.

The Home Secretary previously threatened to withdraw £54 million promised to the country until they stepped up patrols and increase interceptions.

Despite her warnings and threats over the money, the talks held as part of the G7 meetings - which took place in London on Wednesday - only ended in agreement to continue cooperating on the crisis.

Read more: Desperate migrants kiss British soil after making perilous trip across the Channel

Read more: More than 1000 migrants in small boats attempt Channel crossing in one day

Prior to the meeting, a strongly-worded statement from France's interior minister accused Ms Patel of "breaching trust" between the two countries, in response to her warnings.

However, funding was not explicitly discussed at the meeting, it is understood.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson backed Ms Patel's approach during Prime Minister's Questions earlier on Wednesday, vowing to use "every possible tactic at our disposal" to put an end to the crisis.

Read more: Man tells LBC he 'locks his shed' because he is worried about influx of migrants in Kent

Over 600 migrants attempted to cross the Channel on Wednesday - a slight drop on numbers earlier in the week.

Clandestine Channel Threat Commander Dan O’Mahoney held gangs responsible for the rise in attempts to enter the UK in recent weeks.

"This unacceptable rise in dangerous crossings is being driven by criminal gangs and a surge in illegal migration across Europe," he said.

"We’re determined to target the criminals at every level, so far, we have secured nearly 300 arrests, 65 convictions and prevented more than 10,000 migrant attempts.

"But there is more to do. The Government’s New Plan for Immigration is the only credible way to fix the broken asylum system, breaking the business model of criminal gangs and welcoming people through safe and legal routes."