09 Aug ‘This simply cannot go on’: UK-France row intensifies as Channel migrant crossings top 4,000 | Politics News
A political row between the UK and France over migrant crossings in the Channel has intensified, with Britain’s immigration minister saying the “unacceptable” increase in numbers “simply cannot go on”.
Chris Philp is due to meet his French counterpart in Paris on Tuesday to discuss stronger measures, including “interceptions and returns”.
It comes as 151 migrants reached the UK on Saturday – taking the total since 1 January to 4,100.
While southeast England basked in roasting sunshine on Sunday, a dozen people arrived in Dover after making the dangerous crossing.
Mr Philp said the UK government wants to make the route across the Channel “completely unviable” so migrants “have no incentive to come to northern France or attempt the crossing in the first place”.
“We intend to return as many migrants who have arrived as possible,” he added.
“There are returns flights planned in the coming days. And we will also continue to go after the heinous criminals and organised crime networks putting people’s lives at risk.”
The government has asked the Navy for help and a former Royal Marine has been appointed “clandestine Channel threat commander” to try and cut down the numbers.
Home Secretary Priti Patel vowed last year that the crossings would have become an “infrequent phenomenon” by now.
She has since called the figures “appalling” and levelled blame at her counterparts on the continent as she revealed the UK and French governments were locked in a row over the interpretation of maritime law.
The Sunday Telegraph reported France wants £30m to cover the costs of increased policing to stop the migrants crossing into English waters.
It also claims ministers are looking into chartering spy planes and drones.
Bridget Chapman, spokeswoman for the Kent Refugee Action Network, said the government’s handling of the situation is “increasingly chaotic”.
“Nothing they have done so far has worked,” she said.
“They have spent millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money fortifying the port at Calais, have increased patrols in the Channel, and are now escalating a failing strategy by calling in the military to deal with a humanitarian situation.
“Priti Patel has said that she wants to make the Channel ‘unviable’ for people attempting to cross. But what is unviable is her approach.”
A government source told Sky News earlier this weekend that a “passive blockade” in the Channel was being considered.
Natalie Elphicke, the Conservative MP for Dover, is calling for migrants to be returned to France irrespective of whether they are picked up in British or French waters.
Recent calm conditions on the sea have prompted a huge surge in people trying to make the journey.
Kent County Council has said that 400 migrant children have been taken into its care this year, including 60 in the first week of August and 23 on Friday alone.