‘Brexit spite’ France accused of helping ‘people smugglers’ after surge in crossings

Eustice grilled on 'irony' of French letting migrants cross channel

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So far this week, 50 migrants crossed the Channel on Monday, 504 on Tuesday, 703 on Wednesday and more than 1,000 on Thursday. As of Wednesday, France had intercepted 568 attempted crossings, less than three in 10.

According to reports, France is said to have stopped just “a couple of boats” crossing the Channel on Thursday.

Reports also held more than 3,000 migrants have crossed the Channel in the first 11 days of November, with the French intercepting fewer than 30 percent

Gerald Darmanin, French interior minister, previously pledged a 100 percent rate in exchange for the UK’s £54 million to fund counter-measures.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is reportedly furious at the “go slow” by France on intercepting migrant boats.

A Whitehall source told the Telegraph the French have let migrants carry out dangerous crossings.

They said: “Today, the French government failed in their duty to protect life and to uphold the joint agreement to stop small boats leaving France.

“They let hundreds of people potentially set sail to their death whilst only stopping a couple of boats.

“They appear to have ceded sovereign territory to criminal people smugglers.

“This abject failure will be raised in the strongest possible terms with Gerald Darmanin and the French government.”

Tony Smith, a former head of Border Force, also accused the French of Brexit “spite” for not backing an agreement to take back migrants who should have claimed asylum in a “safe” European country before they arrived in the UK.

In response, Gen Frantz Tavart, who oversees the 130 gendarmes policing a 45-mile stretch of coastline covering the Pas-de-Calais region, blasted back at accusations Paris is intentionally allowing migrants to cross to the UK.

He told the outlet: “I can tell you categorically that the orders coming from French authorities are to be as effective as possible to try and intercept a maximum number of migrants.

“It would be as stupid to suggest we would open the migratory floodgates due to a fishing dispute as it would to suggest we shouldn’t turn out to commemorate the British soldiers who died on French soil on Armistice Day, which I did today in Arras.”

The reported migrant crossing row between France and Britain comes amid ongoing issues around post-Brexit fishing licences.

So far in 2021, more than 22,344 migrants have crossed the English Channel.

It marks a massive surge compared to 8,404 crossings in the whole of 2020.

Dan O’Mahoney, Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, said: “Migrants making these dangerous crossings are putting their lives at risk and it is vital we do everything we can to prevent them and break the business model of the criminal gangs exploiting people.

“As part of our response it is important we have a maritime deterrent in the Channel and Border Force officers are authorised to use safe and legal options for stopping small boats.”

Amnesty International UK has called for the Government to do more for people seeking asylum and blasted how the “highly visible sea crossings” are being used to “justify draconian new policies”.

In a statement, the organisation’s chief executive Sacha Deshmukh said: “We need to remember that these dangerous crossings are taking place because the government has provided no safe alternative for people to exercise their right to seek asylum here.

“If Priti Patel is truly concerned with tackling criminal gangs and their exploitation of people, she needs to set up safe asylum routes so people no longer need to depend on smugglers.

“Tragically, the government seems more interested in playing politics with asylum than in fulfilling its responsibilities toward people in need of a place of safety.”

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