Priti Patel says migrants flee across the Channel from 'racist' France

16 August 2020, 13:19 | Updated: 7 September 2021, 10:10

Dozens more migrants arrived on 15 August
Dozens more migrants arrived on 15 August. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Home Secretary Priti Patel has said migrants are crossing the Channel to Britain because they believe France is a “racist country” where they may be “tortured”.

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According to reports, Ms Patel made her comments in a conference call with Conservative MPs concerned about the recent upsurge in numbers attempting the dangerous voyage in small boats.

Government sources said she had made clear that she did not share those views and was simply explaining the “pull factors” which led so many migrants to risk their lives in this way.

One MP on the call was quoted as saying that she had left an impression that she did believe the French were racist.

“She was calling them racist and she is right. They are more racist than us,” the MP told The Sunday Times.

Migrant crossings in the Channel have hit record levels this year
Migrant crossings in the Channel have hit record levels this year. Picture: PA

The number of people making the perilous journey across the Channel has hit record levels. More than 4,300 people have made the journey successfully this year, and a further 137 - including young children - on Friday.

The Government has appointed a Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, Dan O'Mahone, and deployed Royal Navy assets to try to stop the crossings.

The Home Office said the UK was working with the French authorities to stem the small boat crossings.

However, the spokesman said the Government had limited scope for action until the Brexit transition period comes to an end at the end of the year.

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“The Home Secretary is clearly frustrated by the increasing number of small boats crossing the Channel - this is compounded by the fact we are currently restricted in our response by EU regulations,” the spokesman said.

“That is why the Home Secretary is committed, along with other government departments and No 10, to have legislation ready following the end of the transition period.”