‘The Invasion Continues’: 90 More Boat Migrants Brought Ashore at Dover, as Patel Blames France

DOVER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 04: HMS Mersey (L) is seen travelling in convoy with a Border Force Cutter in the English Channel after being deployed by the Ministry of Defence to assist in searching the area for migrant boats on January 04, 2019 in Dover, England. Following a number of …
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Home Secretary Priti Patel has sought to cast the blame for the illegal boat migrant crisis in the English Channel on her French counterparts for refusing to turn back boats just yards off the coast of France, as nearly 100 migrants successfully reached British shores.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, an estimated 90 illegal boat migrants were taken from the English Channel and brought ashore at the Port of Dover by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and the British Border Force after attempting the perilous journey from France.

Since the beginning of the year, over 2,658 illegal migrants have officially been brought ashore, a figure that will increase after Wednesday’s landings, according to the Daily Mail.

This is compared to 1,890 arrivals for the whole of 2019.

Brexit Party Leader Nigel Farage lamented that the “the invasion continues”, claiming that “90 taken into Dover already. A boat has landed on the beach at Hastings, and 30 or more illegal migrants are on the run.”

In a virtual meeting of the Home Affairs Committee, Home Secretary Priti Patel admitted that there is a “major, major problem with these small boats”. Ms Patel said that she has had “difficult discussions with my French counterpart, even looking at interceptions at sea, because currently, the French authorities are not intercepting boats at sea”.

The Home Secretary said that the British government aims to “break this route” for illegal boat migration, saying that the only feasible solution is to intercept and return migrant boats to France.

“We want to break this route, we want to make this route unviable, and in my view the only way we can do this is by intercepting and returning the boats back to France,” Patel said.

“And by that I mean boats that are just 250 yards away from the French coast,” she noted, adding: “I feel there could be stronger enforcement measures on the French side and they have heard that from me.”

When questioned by the committee if French immigration authorities have the legal power to intercept boats in French territorial waters, Ms Patel said: “That’s absolutely right, and that is what we are working to achieve, right down to sharing legal advice, legal guidance in terms of maritime laws.”

A set of non-binding international maritime laws — which state that ships can only intervene if the given consent from the illegal — has been used as an excuse by the French, as well as by Priti Patel herself, to justify why migrants have not been immediately returned to France.

The French government has not only refused to intercept migrant boats but has been caught actively escorting illegal migrants across the Channel into British territorial waters, where they were filmed handing over migrants to the British Border Force by Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage in May.

The excuse of international maritime laws did not stop former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott from successfully shutting down illegal boat migration to Australia. Under his policy of Operation Sovereign Borders, which was introduced in 2013, boat migrants were intercepted at sea and brought back to their country of origin or brought to off-shore asylum processing centres in third countries.

“You’ve got to be firm to be fair, you’ve got to be tough to be kind in the end, and the kindest thing you could do is to close down the people-smuggling trade. That means as soon as you come across a people-smuggling boat, you stop it and take it back to the place from where it came,” Mr Abbott said in June.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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