'Not just a British problem': UK ready to send ground support to France, minister says

25 November 2021, 09:06 | Updated: 25 November 2021, 09:55

By Emma Soteriou

The UK is "keen to support" France with boots on the ground to help deal with the migrant crisis, a minister today told LBC.

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Minister for Safe and Legal Migration Kevin Foster told LBC's Nick Ferrari that both countries needed to work together to find solution to the issue.

It comes after at least 27 migrants died during an attempted Channel crossing on Wednesday.

Mr Foster said: "We don’t need to view this as either a French or a British problem, but as one we need to work together on to come up with a solution.

"The French have worked to stop crossings this year – they’ve stopped 20,000 – but we’re keen to support them to do more, including providing not just financial resources but, for example, yesterday we provided a helicopter to assist with search and rescue.

"We’re keen to provide what we can to support the enforcement operations on the beach but also to come to agreements that, ultimately, can smash the business model of those who viewed those who died yesterday as nothing more than a profit-making opportunity."

The Nationality and Borders Bill going through parliament is set to crack down on people-smugglers, who could face life behind bars under the proposals.

However, it will also increase the maximum sentence for migrants entering the country unlawfully, rising from six months' imprisonment to four years.

Read more: Migrants' dinghy sank leaving 27 dead after being 'hit by large container ship'

Read more: PM: We must break migrant gangs who are 'literally getting away with murder'

The Government previously announced that it would send an additional £54 million to France to try and stem the flow of people crossing the Channel in small boats.

When asked by Nick whether the UK would deploy military, with agreement from the French, Mr Foster said: "We are happy to look at whatever resources that the French believe would be helpful.

"Let’s be clear Nick, no one’s talking about putting troops in an armed capacity..."

He added: "We accept that this isn’t just a French problem, but this isn’t just a British problem either.

"Also, where can we get to in terms of returns agreements as well? We offered one with our negotiations with the EU, if we secured one it could make a major difference."

It comes after French president Emmanuel Macron said the UK should do more about the crisis, while Boris Johnson said France needed to do more.

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin instead pointed the finger of blame at human trafficking gangs behind the majority of crossings.

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