France calls for EU migrant deal with UK as 1,100 cross Channel in two days

More than 40 boats arrived on shores of south-east England at weekend

France is calling for a migration deal between the UK and the 27 EU member states following a busy weekend in the Channel as 1,100 people arrived in England aboard small boats.

The spike in the number of people making the risky voyage came amid a spell of mild weather and a continuing row between authorities on both sides of the water.

The French government has accused the UK of failing to stay true to their word on a £54 million ($73.5m) funding deal, saying “not one euro has been paid”.

Speaking to Sky News on Monday morning, Damian Hinds, the UK’s security and borders minister, said there were still some “administrative arrangements” to be made but the cash should start flowing “in the coming weeks”.

Despite the fierce criticism from the French, Mr Hinds insisted the government has a “good and constructive” relationship with Paris.

He said the French authorities’ efforts to stem the flow of boats across the Channel were “absolutely invaluable” in the fight against illegal migration, but that “there are still too many people attempting that life-threatening journey”.

France’s Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin has issued a clarion call for an agreement that encompasses the entire EU, not just France, and the bloc’s former member state Britain.

He said the French government will champion such a pact when it takes over the EU’s rotating presidency in January.

“We need to negotiate a treaty, since Mr [Michel] Barnier did not do so when he negotiated Brexit, which binds us on migration issues,” Mr Darmanin said.

Following his visit to Dunkirk, northern France, on Saturday, Mr Darmanin claimed “not one euro has been paid” to the French by the UK as part of their existing deal.

“We are asking the British to keep their promises of financing because we are holding the border for them,” he said.

Home Secretary Priti Patel recently threatened to withhold the funding unless more people were stopped from reaching the UK.

She also instructed Britain’s Border Force agents to prepare to push back boats into French waters. Agents were seen carrying out drills in the Channel but the controversial tactic has yet to be put into effect.

Border Force had a busy weekend and picked up more than 1,100 people at sea in two days, in what was expected to be the final influx of boats before colder weather sets in.

After 10 days in which no crossings were possible due to bad weather, at least 40 boats managed to reach Britain on Friday and Saturday.

Since the start of the year, more than 18,000 people have succeeded in reaching the UK on board small boats, according to data compiled by the PA news agency.

On Friday, a total of 624 people reached the UK — the fourth highest daily tally on record during the current crisis.

Crossings continued on Saturday with at least 491 people — including children and a newborn baby — arriving in Britain after making the perilous journey.

The figures were confirmed by the Home Office on Sunday morning, as the Border Force was once again active in the Channel.

Baby Ayyan spent nine hours at sea on board a boat with her mother and fellow migrants before being picked up by the British charity the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Staff swaddled the little girl in a blanket and handed her to a police officer on a beach in Dungeness, Kent.

Her mother told Sky News she had taken the crossing with her daughter to get the “best life” for them, and said the baby was doing well, despite the circumstances.

Another migrant on the boat who translated for the woman said French authorities had made no attempt to stop their boat.

More people were seen arriving in Dover on Sunday as crossings continued for a third day in a row.

French authorities said they rescued 340 people at sea on Sunday after their boats encountered difficulties.

The Home Office said on Monday it was still compiling Sunday's arrival figures.

Dan O’Mahoney, Clandestine Channel Threat Commander for the Home Office, said the government was determined to use “every tool at our disposal” to tackle the migrant crisis.

“Working with police and international partners, there have been nearly 300 arrests, 65 convictions related to small boat criminality and our targeted efforts have prevented more than 13,500 migrant attempts so far this year,” he said.

“But this is a complicated issue requiring changes to our laws. The government’s New Plan for Immigration provides a long-term solution to fix the broken system and deliver the change required to tackle criminal gangs and prevent further loss of life.”

Updated: October 11th 2021, 2:19 PM
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