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Immigration Minister Refuses To Rule Out Pushing Back Migrant Boats In The Channel

Immigration Minister Refuses To Rule Out Pushing Back Migrant Boats In The Channel

(Alamy)

2 min read

Immigration minister Kevin Foster has insisted “any maritime tactics would be deployed appropriately” regarding small boats crossing the Channel, but refused to rule out pushing them back towards French waters.

It comes after at least 30 people drowned on Wednesday trying to reach the UK in what Prime Minister Boris Johnson described as an “appalling” incident.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Foster condemned the “criminal gangs” responsible for the crossing who “view the people who died yesterday as a profit”.

He added that “finger pointing isn’t very helpful” amid questions over both the UK and France’s responsibility for the deaths.

But he refused to rule out pushing back boats as a future tactic to deter Channel crossings. He said: “Any maritime tactics would be deployed appropriately... and that would be determined by commanders on the ground.”

Foster continued that his recommendation would be for border officials to “work with France” to stop people before the “get to the middle of the Channel” as “that isn’t a great place for people to be”. 

The government is under increased pressure to tackle crossings from France to the UK after the number of people who made the journey this year hit 25,000 – triple the number of arrivals in 2020. 

Home Secretary Priti Patel is set to speak to her French counterpart on Thursday morning regarding Wednesday's incident, Foster said.

Speaking following an emergency Cabinet meeting yesterday evening, Immigration compliance minister Tom Pursglove said that the Prime Minister had renewed a previous offer to UK police and Border Force officials to support the French.

But, speaking to the Today programme, MP for Calais Pierre-Henri Dumont said that the UK’s offer wouldn’t help deter those looking to cross the Channel.

“I’m not sure that having more police officers or more materials on the French shore will help to stop these crossings,” he said.

“We’ve got 200 or 300km of shore to monitor 24/7 and it only takes five or 10 minutes to take a boat and put it at sea filled with migrants, so I’m not sure it’s only a question about money and the question about the number of men.”

Dumont continued: “To monitor all the shore would take thousands of people. There is also a question of sovereignty — I’m not sure the British people would accept it the other way round, with the French army patrolling the British shore.”

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