Home Secretary set for migrant crisis talks as fresh wave of crossings continues

Home Secretary Priti Patel is to meet her French counterpart later this week in a bid to tackle the ongoing migrant crisis.

Ms Patel is said to be planning to meet the French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner in Paris on Thursday.

She has given the Home Office 72 hours to come up with a solution to the wave of attempts by migrants to cross the English Channel in small boats after speaking with Mr Castaner on the phone on Monday, the Daily Mail reports.

The latest wave of attempts by migrants to travel from France to the UK in small boats continued on Tuesday when Border Force officers were seen intercepting several dinghies heading towards Dover.

About 20 people were seen being taken to a quayside Home Office facility on the Kent coast after the boats were towed towards land by a Border Force cutter.

People on board two of the dinghies were initially seen being escorted to shore at around 8am, closely followed by a third.

The Dover coastguard confirmed they were called out to assist a Border Force operation but refused to comment further.

The Home Office is yet to provide details of the incident.

The latest crossing comes as it emerged almost 40,000 failed asylum seekers remain in the UK, despite being targeted for removal. This is a rise of 15% in the last year, The Times reports.

The number of unsuccessful applicants “subject to removal action” rose to 39,932 in the year to June, up from 34,752 a year earlier, according to Home Office immigration statistics.

Of the asylum applications rejected, 3,471 have been removed in the year to June, is down 27% from 4,819 the previous year, the data said.

David Wood, a former director general of immigration enforcement at the Home Office, told the newspaper that “in reality the longer they stay the more difficult it is to remove them as they get married, have children and build roots in the UK”.

A group of men are brought to shore
A group of men are brought to shore by Border Force officers (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Figures published last week showed the number of people offered asylum and other forms of humanitarian protection by the UK has risen to 18,519 – its highest level since 2003. This is 29% more than the previous year.

A Home Office spokesman said it was “committed to removing those who are here illegally” but said “legal challenges” can “frustrate immediate removal”, adding: “We will always seek to return people with no right to be in the UK and since the beginning of 2010 there have been over 362,000 voluntary or enforced returns.”

The news comes as it was reported the body of the migrant believed to have died attempting to swim across the Channel had been found near a Belgian port, with swimming flippers and a life jacket made of plastic water bottles.

The Home Office offered its condolences to loved ones after the “tragic” incident, reiterating warnings of the risk anyone takes when making the “dangerous” crossing.

On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned illegal migrants that they would be sent back if they risked crossing the Channel.

His comments prompted widespread criticism by campaigners, lawyers and politicians, who branded his comments “misleading”, “inflammatory”, “unlawful” and “inhumane”.

Border Force vessel Speedwell arrives at the Port of Dover
Border Force vessel Speedwell arrives at the Port of Dover (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Responding to the latest incident, Dover MP Charlie Elphicke said the crisis is “escalating into a summer of chaos” which would only end when “migrants and traffickers alike know the crossings won’t succeed”.

He called on the French authorities to “get a grip and stop people setting off from France – before there is another tragedy in the Channel” and said there should be round-the-clock surveillance of the French coast.

On Thursday UK and French authorities dealt with nearly 100 migrants, including 17 children, trying to cross the Channel in one day. On Friday another 35 migrants were intercepted on both sides of the waters.

On Monday two more boats were intercepted carrying 28 men, women and children who said they were from Iraq and Iran.

Last month when questioned by the Home Affairs Committee, the then home secretary Sajid Javid said in 2019 up until July 21 there had been 1,150 attempted crossings, with 725 people arriving in the UK and 425 intercepted by France.

Since January the Home Office said it has returned “more than 65 people who arrived illegally in small boats” to Europe but would not provide an exact figure.

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