Former Border Force chief explains how to stop migrant boats

16 July 2020, 07:46 | Updated: 16 July 2020, 07:52

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

"The only way to stop the boats is to effect instant returns," a former UK Border Force chief tells LBC how to stop migrant boats coming to the UK.

Tony Smith a former UK Border Force chief told LBC's Tom Swarbrick that stopping migrants attempting to cross the English Channel was a question of "trying to break the cycle."

He said it was similar to the situation in the Mediterranean and in Greece.

The immigration expert said the only way to stop migrants making the dangerous crossing was by effecting "instant returns" and sending those who are caught back to France, straight away.

"But, unfortunately, in order to do that it requires a bilateral agreement with the French, and it seems at the moment the French aren't prepared to tango," Mr Smith said.

Tom pointed out that the Home Secretary Priti Patel said there were instances when the French authorities were not working to prevent migrants from attempting the crossing to the UK, with some of those boats just "250 yards away from the French coast."

Mr Smith said this was due to the French Government's interpretation of maritime law.

He revealed that, while the whole area of law is quite complex, one thing that is clear is that when a migrant is on board a UK vessel "then we are duty-bound to bring them ashore and 8make sure they're safe and well, and then they claim asylum."

"If we can't return them to France immediately, because France is a safe country, we don't have an agreement for that," he said, "then people are going to keep coming because they can see that success is simply to push off from the French coastline and get picked up by a British vessel."

The UK Border Force is obliged to bring people to British shores if they board one of their boats
The UK Border Force is obliged to bring people to British shores if they board one of their boats. Picture: PA

Over the weekend at least 180 migrants were able to cross the English Channel to the UK on Sunday - a new single-day record.

They were among more than 380 migrants who attempted the crossing, the Home Office confirmed on Monday morning.

More than 200 migrants were intercepted by the French and prevented from reaching the UK.

On Wednesday Priti Patel told the Commons Home Affairs Committee the British and French governments disagree on whether it would be lawful to intercept boats.

"French authorities are not intercepting boats at sea... even boats that have just left, that are 250 yards or so away," Ms Patel said.

"We want to make this unviable and in my view the only way to do this is by intercepting and returning the boats back to France."

This was not currently taking place due to the "French authorities' interpretations of what they can and can't do at sea" under maritime law, she said.

"It is our advice that they can go ahead and do that."

A spokesperson for the Home Office said there were fifteen separate incidents on Sunday when officers intercepted boats attempting the crossing from France.

It came at the same time as Home Secretary Priti Patel and her French counterpart signed an agreement on intelligence sharing in an effort to tackle people smugglers.

They have agreed to create a Franco-British intelligence cell, French Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin said on Sunday afternoon.

Ms Patel had been in Calais for talks on security cooperation between the two nations.