UK tough talk on migrants falls flat as Europe refuses to help

Home Secretary Priti Patel urges France to prevent ‘demoralising’ English Channel crossings

A migrant is escorted by a Border Force officer after trying to cross the English Channel in a small boat. AP
A migrant is escorted by a Border Force officer after trying to cross the English Channel in a small boat. AP

The UK has failed to deport more than 1,500 migrants who arrived illegally because EU nations will not accept them.

Ministers brought in new “inadmissibility” rules at the end of the Brexit transition period last year, allowing officials to reject asylum claims and deport migrants to a “safe third country” they had previously passed through.

The move was designed to deter migrants from crossing the English Channel from France.

However, since January 1, not one of the 1,503 migrants who crossed the Channel were returned to a third country, despite having their asylum claims rejected.

This is because the UK government failed to strike a deal with EU nations to return migrants who arrived on British shores.

A new set of rules would replace the Dublin Agreement, which allowed European countries to take back migrants who could have claimed asylum in their countries. The UK is no longer part of that initiative after leaving the EU.

The number of migrants crossing the Channel in dinghies has this year almost doubled from the same period in 2020, with more than 3,100 people landing on the English coast by the end of May.

On Monday, Norwegian police identified the body of a Kurdish-Iranian boy who went missing in the Channel in October and washed up on Norway’s south-west coast on January 1.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said the public was “fed up” and “demoralised” by the number of migrants crossing the Channel.

“The British public are fed up, they’re absolutely fed up and demoralised with what we have been seeing, and I’ve been very clear to my department – as I have been over the last 12 months – about operational activity from Border Force,” she told the House of Commons.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson phoned French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the issue.

A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Johnson “raised the need for redoubled efforts to deter migrants from attempting this perilous journey”.

“Our French counterparts absolutely must do more and we are constantly impressing this point upon them," Ms Patel said.

Updated: June 8, 2021 10:40 PM

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