France and the UK are working “at pace” to make the Channel crossing “unviable” for people a group of Tory MPs call “invading migrants”.
Prime minister Boris Johnson was accused yesterday (Monday) of using “inaccurate and inflammatory” language to scapegoat people risking their lives to cross the Channel as 23 of his MPs and two Tory Lords petitioned the home secretary for “stronger enforcement” to combat a “surge in illegal immigration”.
While new laws are being planned for post-Brexit, the minister for immigration compliance Chris Philip said ministers are “not going to wait until January” (when the UK will have left the EU), because “we need to take action now.”
Speaking in Paris after talks with French officials, Philip said the UK and France “have reaffirmed our unshakeable shared commitment to making sure this route of crossing the Channel is made unviable.
‘Quite clear more needs to be done’
“It is facilitated by ruthless criminal gangs, it puts lives at risk and it is totally unnecessary,” said Philip, adding a “new operational plan” has been devised “with the objective in mind of completely cutting this route.
“We’re going to work at pace in the coming days to make that plan a reality.”
Philip said French authorities “are doing a great deal of work” and have “intercepted well over a thousand people so far this year” but that the “unacceptable” numbers crossing makes it “quite clear more needs to be done”.
It is estimated that 4,100 have made the crossing from Calais to Dover in 2020 and humanitarian groups as well as refugee and migration experts have called on the government to bolster and create safe and legal routes for asylum seekers. Strengthening laws to reunite families, humanitarian visas and places for child refugees under the ‘Dubs scheme’ are all measures the government are being urged to work on.
However, the minister for immigration compliance signalled the government’s intent, stating: “If we can make this route unviable, which we are determined to do, then migrants will have no reason at all to come to France in the first place.”
‘People cannot be illegal’ Ben and Jerry’s tell Patel
In a strange twist to the escalating and increasingly politicised Channel crossing issue, the home secretary Priti Patel has become involved in a spat with an ice-cream maker after Ben and Jerry’s criticism of her stance.
The Unilever owned company – established in 1978 by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield and sold in 2000 for around £250 million – had called for UK ministers to show more “humanity” to the Channel crossers, adding in a series of tweets, that “people cannot be illegal”.
Unimpressed, a Home Office source hit back, stating: “”Priti is working day and night to bring an end to these small boat crossings, which are facilitated by international criminal gangs and are rightly of serious concern to the British people.
“If that means upsetting the social media team for a brand of overpriced junk food, then so be it.”
Five more tweets remind the home secretary that “people wouldn’t make dangerous journeys if they had any other choice” as well as stating that “it is enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention that crossing a border ‘illegally’ should not impact your asylum claim”.
The company asks why ministers have not had conversations with experts such as Refugee Action and added: “Let’s remember we’re all human and have the same rights to life regardless of the country we happen to have been born in.”
Clandestine Channel Threat Commander to make route ‘unviable’
Yesterday (August 10), Patel tweeted about her visit to Dover “to see how Border Force and operational partners are tirelessly dealing with the unacceptable number of illegal small boat crossings.
“I am absolutely committed to making this incredible dangerous route unviable.”
The visit and tweeted statement followed Patel’s appointment on Sunday (August 9) of former Royal Marine Dan O’Mahoney “to collaborate with the French to tackle Channel crossings”, as stated by the Home Office.
O’Mahoney’s new role as “Clandestine Channel Threat Commander” places him alongside the home secretary and minister for immigration compliance with the “primary responsibility of making the Channel route unviable for small boat crossings.”
He will work with the French on “urgently exploring tougher action in France” that includes tougher enforcement measures, sea interceptions and “the direct return of boats.”
Patel – numbers crossing is ‘appalling’
In the statement, Patel says the number of “illegal small boat crossings is appalling” and that the government is “working to make this route unviable and arresting the criminals facilitating these crossings and making sure they are brought to justice.”
O’Mahoney describes the “fight to end the heinous crime of people smuggling” as a “critically important issue.”
Migrant camps have existed in Calais for many years with French police frequently launching operations to try and close them down. The infamous Calais ‘jungle’ camp was home to 9,000 people when it was officially cleared in 2016, displacing the people but not resolving the problems. RT report a camp called the Dunes is nicknamed the ‘Big Jungle’ and claimed in July that the easing of Covid-19 border restrictions in the EU means “more people are gathering at the French port town in the hope of reaching the United Kingdom via the Channel tunnel.”