Call for a British treaty with France on migrant crossings to avoid “crisis” numbers

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A failure by the UK to reach a new deal with France on how to handle migrant crossings could lead to numbers reaching “crisis” levels, a former border force chief warned. This follows a record number of crossings to Britain in a single day last week, and follows a government minister calling the number of incidents “too high”.

Tony Smith, the former head of the UK Border Force, said the UK and France must agree a treaty with a joint patrol whereby migrants picked up in the English Channel can be returned to France for examination. their asylum applications.

He told the PA news agency: “What I’m advocating is that we must do our best to replicate the juxtaposed checks for legitimate candidates in the same way as for illegitimate candidates.

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Group of people considered migrants are brought to Dover (Gareth Fuller / PA)

“If they want to come to the UK, they have to make their point on the French side, and if they are in the waterways or even going to Dover, we say ‘I’m sorry but you there. go back and this is where you will be questioned and treated, on the French side ”.”

Last month Home Secretary Priti Patel sought to blame her French counterparts, telling the Commons Home Affairs Committee the “unacceptable” number of people making the perilous trip in small boats.

Immigration Compliance Minister Chris Philp on Saturday called on France to be stronger in intercepting ships at sea and directing the return of boats trying to get to the UK.

At least 202 migrants made it to Britain on Thursday in a wave of 20 boats, a single-day record.

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Dover Lifeboat and Border Force officers tow small boats in Dover, Kent (Gareth Fuller / PA)

Asked about his hopes that the Home Office will be able to strike a new deal with France, Mr Smith said: “I wouldn’t like to call him to find out whether or not they can make the breakthrough.

“All I would say is we did it before and the numbers were much higher then.

“I think there are potential opportunities, but there will have to be some kind of quid pro quo that will convince the French that this is a measure that was designed to help both sides, not just one street to another. one way where the UK is essentially able to block anyone coming from France.

He said the current approach puts people’s lives at risk and “feeds contraband supply chains”.

The number of migrants aboard small boats intercepted by border forces on Friday fell to 96, but Mr Smith said if the daily numbers held up in the hundreds, “you’re going to start hitting the numbers which were actually almost a crisis. 20 years ago “.

He added: “I’m afraid if we can’t get a new deal with the French on returns, we won’t be able to stop this and we might see numbers on the scale we saw there. has years. by. “

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