Border Farce Part 2: UK patrol boats have picked up migrant dinghies on French side of the Channel on ‘a number of occasions’ as pressure mounts on Priti Patel to cut the amount of crossings
- Home Secretary will haul in top brass from the UK Border Force for explanation
- A Home Office source said border officials were ‘simply not delivering results’
- Mail revealed how Border Force cutter went to France to get migrants
Priti Patel faced renewed pressure over the migrant crisis last night after it emerged UK border patrols have picked up dinghies on the French side of the Channel on ‘a number of occasions’.
The Home Secretary will haul in top brass from the UK Border Force today to demand an explanation – as well as a new plan to cut the number of crossings during the summer peak.
In signs that Miss Patel’s patience is fraying, a Home Office source said borders officials were ‘simply not delivering results’ – despite tens of millions of pounds being thrown at the problem. Nearly 1,200 migrants have reached Britain from northern France in the past ten days.
A man thought to be a migrant is brought in to Dover, Kent, on Thursday
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, on Thursday
The Mail revealed on Saturday how the Border Force cutter HMC Valiant crossed the maritime border into French waters, picked up four migrants from a dinghy and delivered them to Dover.
An exchange on open radio frequencies showed British officers negotiated the ‘legality’ of the manoeuvre with a French patrol ship.
Now it can be disclosed it was not the first time a British border patrol had carried out the controversial manoeuvre. ‘There has over the last four to five years been a number of occasions when this has happened,’ a Home Office insider said. ‘It is really rare, but there have been a couple of previous occasions. It should not have happened.’
A dinghy with 15 Afghan refugees approaches the Greek island of Lesbos last year next to UK Border Force patrol boat HMC Valiant
In signs that Miss Patel’s patience is fraying, a Home Office source said borders officials were ‘simply not delivering results’ – despite tens of millions of pounds being thrown at the problem
Early results of an inquiry into the latest incident are expected to land on the Home Secretary’s desk today.
It is understood there has been resistance towards tougher responses at sea – including turning small boats back to France – from within Border Force itself.
Sources accused the agency of a ‘lack of urgency’ in dealing with the escalating crisis.
Kent’s legal threat over lone children
A Tory-led council having to deal with hundreds of lone children seeking asylum is preparing legal action against the Home Office.
Local leaders in Kent say the county has reached ‘breaking point’ and could apply for a judicial review to force Priti Patel to send the youngsters to other councils across the country.
About 250 lone children, some as young as 12, have been smuggled across the Channel this year.
Last month, there were 115, almost double the level in May last year, putting pressure on social services and finances.
‘We are at breaking point,’ Matt Dunkley, Kent’s director of children’s services, told The Sunday Times. ‘Underneath this there is a humanitarian crisis involving traumatised young people.’
The unprecedented number of solo arrivals include growing numbers of girls, prompting fears they could be forced into prostitution by criminal gangs.
A Vietnamese girl who arrived last weekend is said to have vanished from a reception centre.
A voluntary scheme started in 2016 for other councils to take children has ground to a halt.
The Home Office authorised vast spending last year on new equipment to block and turn back migrant boats – including floating ‘booms’. But despite being tested in sea trials, the tactics have yet to be deployed in the Channel.
France – which was handed £28million from British taxpayers in November to step up beach patrols – will only intervene on the seas if migrants ask for help.
Border Force’s illicit co-operation with the French to escort small boats across the Channel also risks seriously undermining the Home Secretary’s tough public pronouncements.
‘Clearly government ministers are unhappy with the continued crossings and lack of urgency in responding to them,’ a Home Office source said. ‘For over a year now ministers have encouraged the team responsible to pursue new tactics, and supported them with funding and resources, but they are simply not delivering results.
‘While criminal gangs are continuing to profit, the Border Force front-line are under increasing pressure and our asylum system under more strain. The approach has to change.’
It is understood Miss Patel will demand that Border Force high command explains ‘how and why’ a British boat entered French waters to escort a dinghy into UK waters. She will also order them to draw up an action plan to cut the number of crossings over the summer, including an update on progress made on Anglo-French co-operation.
There is also increasing irritation on the Tory backbenches, with one MP calling on the Home Secretary to rethink tactics being used in the Channel and to end the problem ‘once and for all’.
Tory MP for Dover, Natalie Elphicke, said: ‘The bottom line is there needs to be a fresh approach to the small boats crisis that stops boats leaving France in the first place and turns them around in the Channel back to France.
‘This is criminal activity, plain and simple. Border Force wouldn’t pick up a consignment of drugs or guns in the middle of the Channel and bring them into Dover.’
She added: ‘We have seen in other countries, like Australia, that taking firm and decisive action to turn back boats works, and saves lives.’