Priti Patel says it’s up to France to stop migrants crossing the Channel

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Home Secretary Priti Patel has argued that it is up to France to stop migrants crossing the Channel.

The comments were made during a statement to MPs, in which she added there is “no quick fix” to the issue.

Meanwhile, France has demanded fresh assistance, with French president Emmanuel Macron requesting “extra help” from the UK.

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Ms Patel added that the drownings were a “dreadful shock” and described the crossings as “absolutely unnecessary” after renewing an offer of sending British officers to join patrols on French beaches.

But new figures from the Home Office show that asylum claims in the UK have hit their highest level for nearly 20 years – much of which has been fuelled by soaring migrant crossings on the Channel.



A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, by the RNLI

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer expressed his frustration towards the Home Secretary, saying that she “isn’t doing anything to deal with this effectively”.

In an urgent statement to MPs, Ms Patel said: “What happened yesterday was a dreadful shock, it was not a surprise but it is also a reminder of how vulnerable people are put at peril when in the hands of criminal gangs.

“There is also no quick fix. This is about addressing long-term pull factors, smashing the criminal gangs that treat human beings as cargo and tackling supply chains.”

Following an emergency call between the Prime Minister and Mr Macron, Ms Patel said she made a “very clear” offer to her French counterpart to have British officers “join patrols to prevent these dangerous journeys from taking place”.

Despite this, Pierre-Henri Dumont, the MP for Calais, dismissed the “crazy” proposal that he said “will not change anything” along the vast shoreline.

Speaking during a visit to Croatia, Mr Macron said: “We are going to ask for extra help from the British because all these men and these women don’t want to stay in France.



French President Emmanuel Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron

“We tell them they’re obviously able to do so, and there are centres in Calais and Dunkirk where they can go, but we’re going to reinforce in fact saving them at sea.”

French politicians have begun placing the blame on UK authorities for failing to tackle the issue.

During this time, two more small boats carrying individuals believed to be migrants arrived on British shores.

One group wearing life jackets and wrapped in blankets were seen huddled together on board an RNLI lifeboat before disembarking in Dover on Thursday morning. High winds put a stop to the crossings later in the day.

As a former prosecutor, Sir Keir said he would “take a lot of persuading” that the evidence was not there earlier to make the arrests of five suspected smugglers believed to have been involved and prevent the latest deaths as he called for greater cooperation with France.



Labour leader Keir Starmer states he is frustrated with the Home Secretary

“We’ve got to improve our law enforcement here because the people smugglers, the traffickers have got a real hold on these desperate people, we’ve got to break that,” he told reporters.

“I’m also frustrated that the Home Secretary makes no end of headline-grabbing statements but isn’t doing anything to deal with this effectively.”

Speaking to French radio network RTL, Mr Darmanin earlier blamed human trafficking gangs who promised people the “El Dorado of England” for a large fee.

Mr Darmanin was unable to state the nationalities of the victims – but said one was Somali and the other Iraqi.

The French prosecutor’s office tasked with investigating the incident said the dead included 17 men, seven women and two boys and one girl believed to be teenagers.

A joint search and rescue operation by the French and British authorities that was launched after a fishing boat spotted people in the sea off France was finally called off late on Wednesday.

The French authorities have arrested five suspected people traffickers in connection with the incident, and the French prosecutors’ office said magistrates are investigating potential charges of homicide, unintentional wounding, assisting illegal migration and criminal conspiracy.



French police look out over the coast at Wimereux, north of Boulogne in northern France

Following a meeting of the Cobra emergencies committee, Mr Johnson said it is clear that French operations to stop the migrant boats leaving “haven’t been enough” despite £54 million of UK support, adding that the people traffickers are “literally getting away with murder”.

However, Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart said it is the British who are to blame and called on Mr Johnson to “face up to his responsibilities”.

“The British Government is to blame. I believe that Boris Johnson has, for the past year and a half, cynically chosen to blame France,” she said, according to French media reports.

Franck Dhersin, vice president of transport for the northern Hauts-de-France region, said the “mafia chiefs” at the top of the trafficking networks live in the UK and must be arrested.

“And the mafia chiefs live in London… They live in London peacefully, in beautiful villas, they earn hundreds of millions of euros every year, and they reinvest that money in the City,” he told French TV station BFMTV.

More than 25,700 people have made the dangerous journey to the UK in small boats this year – three times the total for the whole of 2020, according to data compiled by the PA news agency.

Figures released by the Home Office on Thursday showed that more than 37,500 asylum claims were made in the UK in the year to September, which is the highest level for nearly 20 years.

The backlog in cases also reached its highest point since comparable records began, with more than 67,500 asylum applications awaiting a decision at the end of September.





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