PM brands migrant crossings 'very bad, stupid, dangerous and criminal'

10 August 2020, 10:33

Border Force officers assist 20 Syrian migrants aboard HMC Hunter after they were stopped as they crossed the Channel in an inflatable dinghy headed in the direction of England.
Border Force officers assist 20 Syrian migrants aboard HMC Hunter after they were stopped as they crossed the Channel in an inflatable dinghy headed in the direction of England. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Boris Johnson has branded migrants' Channel crossings a "very bad and stupid and dangerous and criminal thing to do" as he hinted at changing laws to tackle the crisis.

The Prime Minister said the UK must look at the legal framework for migrants who have arrived in the UK illegally.

His comments come as 20 Syrian migrants were intercepted by a Border Force patrol ship and news emerged that the RAF has deployed a surveillance aircraft to the Channel as an "initial offer of assistance" to the Home Office.

The Navy could also be deployed to turn round small boats used by migrants hoping to reach the UK. Home Secretary Priti Patel visited the Kent coast today and is understood to have boarded a police vessel and met with Border Force officials as part of measures to address the issue.

She was seen disembarking from a police boat that had been out in the English Channel earlier in the morning.

Speaking during a trip to St Joseph's school in Upminster, the Prime Minister said: "We've got a problem which is that there are people who want to come from around the world to this country because obviously it's a great place to be.

"There's no doubt that it would be helpful if we could work with our French friends to stop them getting over the Channel.

"Be in no doubt what's going on is the activity of cruel and criminal gangs who are risking the lives of these people taking them across the Channel, a pretty dangerous stretch of water in potentially unseaworthy vessels.

"We want to stop that working with the French, make sure that they understand that this isn't a good idea, this is a very bad and stupid and dangerous and criminal thing to do.

"But then there's a second thing we've got to do and that is to look at the legal framework that we have that means that when people do get here, it is very, very difficult to then send them away again even though blatantly they've come here illegally."

An RAF A400M Atlas Aircraft has been deployed to assist the Border Force
An RAF A400M Atlas Aircraft has been deployed to assist the Border Force. Picture: PA

A Royal Air Force plane is conducting surveillance over the English Channel as part of the effort to tackle migrants attempting the crossing from France.

The flight by the Atlas aircraft was authorised by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to support Border Force operations in the Channel.

The Ministry of Defence said the aircraft, which flew from RAF Brize Norton, is an "initial offer of assistance" to the Home Office.

Read more: 20 Syrian migrants intercepted off Kent coast

The news comes as around 20 Syrian migrants were stopped by the Border Force off the coast of Dover.

A packed inflatable dinghy was crossing the English Channel on Monday morning before being intercepted by the Immigration patrol vessel.

Those on board were seen waving and smiling on their journey before the Border Force patrol boat Hunter stopped them at about 7.15am with the White Cliffs in sight.

More than 677 people made it to the UK in a surge of crossings between Thursday and Sunday.

This brings the total number of migrants reaching UK shores by crossing the dangerous Dover Strait in small boats to 4,000 this year.

As we reported the Home Office has made an official request to the Royal Navy to assist with operations in the Channel.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has also appointed a former Royal Marine to the post of "clandestine Channel threat commander".

The Home Office is facing criticism in recent weeks and the Government has been accused of being "increasingly chaotic" in its handling of the crisis.

Care minister Helen Whately has said the "unacceptable situation" of migrant crossings in the English Channel "absolutely needs to stop".

She told Sky News: "We do have an unacceptable situation of many migrants coming across the Channel at the moment.

"It's also a dangerous route, there's real risk to life for those coming across, it's obviously a form of illegal immigration, it's not the right way to come to the United Kingdom.

"So, we are taking action."

Ms Whately added: "The important thing is we work together with the French to stop this flow of migrants.

"Its not a safe way for them to try and get here, it's incredibly dangerous, it also means money is going to people smugglers, so it absolutely needs to stop."

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