France and Britain agree £30m plan to make migrant boat crossings “unviable”

12 August 2020, 09:57

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, by Border Force officers following a number of small boat incidents in the Channel on Wednesday
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, by Border Force officers following a number of small boat incidents in the Channel on Wednesday. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

France and Britain have agreed a “comprehensive” new plan to tackle the rising number of migrants crossing the English Channel.

Following a weekend of record small boat crossings UK Immigration Minister Chris Philip struck an agreement in Paris yesterday with his French counterparts to make the English Channel an “unviable” route for migrants.

The deal will likely see the UK tax-payer hand over another £30 million to pay for the French authorities to take tougher enforcement action to crack down on policing the sea border.

Over 4,000 migrants have made the perilous crossing in small boats across the Channel so far this year, including nearly 600 in the last week alone after good weather and calm seas created preferable conditions for navigating the world’s busiest shipping lane. 

Speaking after his visit to Paris yesterday, Mr Philip said the UK and France had “renewed and reaffirmed their absolute commitment to making sure this border is properly policed and this route is completely ended”.

This follows growing pressure from Conservative backbenchers for action on the issue, with 23 MPs and two peers sending a letter to Mr Philip calling for the government to do “whatever it takes” to deal with the problem.

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This is not the first time the UK has given money to the French government to tackle migrants attempting to cross the channel. 

In 2016 David Cameron’s government paid around £2 million for a 13ft wall in Calais to prevent migrants trying to stow away on trucks heading for Britain.

Meanwhile, Kent local council have called for more support to cope with the rise in the number of unaccompanied child asylum seekers they have to care for. 

Sue Chandler from Kent County Council Children’s Services told LBC over 50 children needing their services had arrived in the past week and the “sheer scale” of the increase was “putting very severe pressure on social workers and reception centres”.

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On Monday Prime Minister Boris Johnson branded migrants crossing the Channel a "very bad and stupid and dangerous and criminal thing to do" also hinted at changing asylum laws to deter people from making the journey.

Previous reports suggested ministers were considering using Border Force cutters to stop boats from reaching Britain’s territorial waters and an RAF Atlas A400M surveillance aircraft has been deployed with spotters on board to support the operation.

However, human rights charity Amnesty International has called on officials to focus more on the push factors that are driving migrants to leave their home. 

Kate Allen, director of the charity, told LBC: “When you look at the countries that people are coming from - Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan - it does not take too much knowledge to understand why you might need to flee those countries.

“I think that it is worth us going back to root causes because we are talking about human beings,” she added.

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The news comes at the same time as Home Secretary Priti Patel faced criticism from other quarters, notably the ice-cream brand Ben and Jerry's.

In a series of tweets on social media, the brand said: “Hey @PritiPatel, we think the real crisis is our lack of humanity for people fleeing war, climate change and torture.

“Let’s remember we’re all human and have the same rights to life regardless of the country we happen to have been born in.

“And once more for the back: PEOPLE CANNOT BE ILLEGAL.”

But in response, a source close to the Home Secretary described Ben and Jerry's as “overpriced junk food”.