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Ex-Border Force chief says crossings could reach ‘epidemic’ levels unless France agrees to deal

Britain could face up to 100,000 migrants arriving each year unless it strikes a deal with France, a former Border Force chief has warned, after record numbers crossed the Channel this week.

Tony Smith, the former director-general of Border Force, said numbers were in danger of reaching ‘epidemic’ levels.

His comments come after a record 1,185 migrants crossed the Channel on Thursday and three who fell from kayaks were feared dead. The French stopped 99 migrants that day.

Mr Smith said the numbers of migrants arriving in the UK could reach levels last seen in the Sangatte crisis in 2001, when thousands of migrants tried to smuggle themselves into Britain, unless France agreed to take back people intercepted at sea or those who reached the UK.

Tony Smith, the former head of UK Border Force who has warned a failure by the UK to reach a new agreement with France on how to deal with migrant crossings could lead to 100,000 migrants arriving each year

Mr Smith, who himself helped implement the deal to halt the crisis in the early 2000s, told The Telegraph: ‘If you’re talking about 1,000 a day you are getting to the epidemic proportions I predicted we might reach in 2001. 

‘That’s when we had 100,000 in a year with the vast majority coming across the Channel.

‘They were sleeping in the streets in Dover.

‘There was a huge injection of money into the Home Office to cope with that.

‘If we accept those numbers are going to continue, we are going to have to build facilities for the migrants to be properly looked after.’

Mr Smith's comments come after a record 1,185 migrants crossed the Channel on Thursday and three who fell from kayaks were feared dead. The French stopped 99 migrants that day

Mr Smith’s comments come after a record 1,185 migrants crossed the Channel on Thursday and three who fell from kayaks were feared dead. The French stopped 99 migrants that day

The deal struck between Britain in France in 2003 led to border controls including ID checks on the French side, and millions spent on improving security around ports.

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson urged France to ‘close off’ the flow of migrants crossing into their country to stop them from sailing to the UK.

Thursday’s total surpassed the previous single-day record for the current crisis of 853 set earlier this month as the November figure soared past 3,500, more than four times last November’s 791.

The figure for this year is almost 24,000 – close to three times as many as in 2020. 

Home Secretary Priti Patel said Brexit would not disrupt a deal between Britain and France as she called the crisis a ‘shared problem’ with France and its neighbours that required a ‘shared solution’.

She added: ‘Stopping this criminal activity is too important to let anything get in the way and suggestions that wider issues are affecting cooperation are wide of the mark.

‘Our police and border force teams work hand in glove, day in, day out.

‘Together we are arresting and prosecuting organised criminals, preventing numerous departures and saving lives.

‘But last week showed we must do more.

‘I want to go further and faster and that’s why I will be holding talks with [French interior minister] Gerald Darmanin this week.’ 

Thursday's total surpassed the previous single-day record for the current crisis of 853 set earlier this month as the November figure soared past 3,500, more than four times last November's 791

Thursday’s total surpassed the previous single-day record for the current crisis of 853 set earlier this month as the November figure soared past 3,500, more than four times last November’s 791

However, Mr Smith said he was not confident Emmanuel Macron’s administration was willing to negotiate, adding: ‘The French are not interested in sitting down with Priti Patel about this because they don’t want migrants back.’

On Friday, Boris Johnson hit out at Emmanuel Macron’s Government for not policing their beaches to stop migrants from sailing to Britain on small boats, arguing it is difficult for UK Border Force to turn migrants back safely in the English Channel as he defended Priti Patel’s border policies.

Speaking at a vaccination centre in Old Bexley and Sidcup, south east London, Mr Johnson insisted that the UK was dealing with the migrant crisis in the ‘most effective’ way, as he called on France to shut their borders to ‘close off’ the flow of migrants arriving in the country with the purpose of sailing across the Channel to reach the UK.

He told Sky News: ‘They are coming from France. In the end, if the French authorities will not or cannot control those departures it is very difficult for us to turn them back at sea. We want to do that in a safe and in a humane way but it’s very difficult.

‘You have to work with the French and you have to try to persuade them to police the beaches that are sending these people over to us.’ 

Whitehall sources blasted France for ‘ceding sovereign territory to people smugglers’ in an incendiary attack on Emmanuel Macron’s government as a record daily number of migrants crossed the English Channel.

Boris Johnson defended the Government's policy on migrants and instead hit out at the French president arguing that France need to shut their borders to prevent migrants from sailing across the English Channel to reach the UK

Boris Johnson defended the Government’s policy on migrants and instead hit out at the French president arguing that France need to shut their borders to prevent migrants from sailing across the English Channel to reach the UK

Speaking at a vaccination centre in Old Bexley and Sidcup, London, Mr Johnson hit out at Emmanuel Macron's government (pictured) for not policing their beaches, arguing it is difficult for UK Border Force to turn migrants back safely at sea

Speaking at a vaccination centre in Old Bexley and Sidcup, London, Mr Johnson hit out at Emmanuel Macron’s government (pictured) for not policing their beaches, arguing it is difficult for UK Border Force to turn migrants back safely at sea

The Prime Minister went on to hit out at France for not closing down their borders or policing their beaches, arguing that migrants are arriving in France with the purpose of sailing across the English Channel.

He said: ‘We are working all the time with our French colleagues, the whole of Europe faces a migration crisis as you can see with what is happening in Belarus and elsewhere, but we need to focus on those French beaches.

‘What I would say to our French friends is if you close off the door to the corridor at the far end, then people won’t come into the corridor at the other end.

‘We need to close down that movement from the French beaches to the UK, if you want to stop people coming into France to come to the UK.’

Mr Johnson also defended Priti Patel’s controversial new borders bill, which aims to deter illegal entry into the UK and could see people arriving by an illegal route, such as by sailing across the Channel, could have their claim ruled as inadmissible and receive a jail sentence of up to four years.

He said that the law could make a distinction ‘between those who arrive here legally, and those who come here illegally’, arguing that it will make an ‘important difference’ in the migrant crisis.

He continued: ‘It won’t be the end of the story but it will make an important difference in the way that we are able to treat people who arrive here illegally.’

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