Money For Nothing: ‘No Agreement’ to Send Migrant Boats Back to France, Despite UK Forking Over £28 Million

AT SEA, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 07: Migrants packed tightly onto a small inflatable boat bail water out as they attempt to cross the English Channel near the Dover Strait, the world's busiest shipping lane, on September 07, 2020 off the coast of Dover, England. Last Wednesday, more than 400 …
Luke Dray/Getty Images

There has been no agreement reached between the United Kingdom and France that would see illegal migrant boats returned to France despite the British taxpayer sending some £28 million in payoffs to the French government.

Chris Philp, the government’s Minister for immigration compliance told the Home Affairs Committee in the House of Commons on Wednesday that it is “currently correct” that no boat return deal has been struck between the two nations.

“The French operational posture on the water is that they don’t forcibly intercept migrant boats,” Philp said in comments reported by the BBC.

“They will rescue them if they start sinking and if the migrants request assistance but they do not currently forcibly intercept migrant boats while in French waters,” he added.

The Clandestine Channel Threat Commander for the Home Office, Dan O’Mahoney said that since 2014 the UK government has sent £192 million to France to tackle the issue of illegal immigration. The majority of the taxpayer funding was spent on building border control infrastructure as well as towards security costs around Calais.

Last week, Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that the UK would be shipping an additional £28 million to France to fund extra security patrols along the coast. Mr O’Mahoney said that the Home Office had been “negotiating very hard with the French”.

Despite the millions of pound sterling sent to France, the UK has seen a record year of illegal boat migration in the English Channel, with an estimated 8,500 migrants being recorded to have landed on British shores.

Mr Philp praised the French government for its actions “on land”, claiming that France has “stepped up enormously in the last few months and interceptions on beaches”.

French police have previously been accused of actually assisting illegal migrants to cross the Channel by a people smuggler in Dunkirk, who claimed in 2019 that the police would inform them on the best times to set sail in order to avoid detection.

Fishermen in France have also been reportedly been involved in the migrant smuggling trade, with organised criminals allegedly paying off the fisherman to ferry the migrants halfway into the Channel in order to avoid detection.

“Nobody is going to suspect a French fishing boat,” a source said in October, adding: “The organised crime gangs have infiltrated them. They’re giving them cash.”

Rather than sending migrants back, the French Navy has been actively assisting migrants across the English Channel, with French ships taxing alongside migrant boats into British territorial waters, where they “hand over” the migrants to the UK Border Force.

In July, the former Prime Minister of Australia — now trade advisor to the British government — said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson must adopt a turn back the boats approach towards illegal immigration, similar to that taken by the Australian government under the Operation Sovereign Borders which effectively shut down illegal boat migration after its introduction in 2013.

“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,” Abbot said.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here: @KurtZindulka

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