Priti Patel sanctions ‘pushback’ tactics to turn migrant boats around

Priti Patel has sanctioned new ‘pushback’ tactics to stop migrant boats in the Channel and turn them back to France amid crunch talks over crossings.

The Home Secretary has ordered officials to rewrite maritime laws to allow Border Force to turn boats around, forcing them to be dealt with by French authorities.

But Paris has already warned that the step could have a ‘negative impact’ on the cooperation. It has also emerged that Britain has offered use of a plane to help monitor the coast, but France has yet to decide whether to accept. 

Some 14,000 migrants are now thought to have arrived in Britain via the Channel this year – with Tory MPs demanding Paris ‘steps up to the plate’ and prevents the crossings.

Health minister Helen Whately insisted this morning that the focus was still on discouraging migrants from attempting the journey, rather than turning them back en route.  

Wednesday saw UK authorities rescue or intercept 301 people with the French reporting they had stopped 302 people reaching Britain, the Home Office said. 

The previous day, 456 were rescued by Britain, and 326 by France. 

Grilled on the situation at PMQs on Wednesday afternoon Boris Johnson admitted that the government is reliant on the French, but insisted ministers will use ‘every possible tactic’ to ease the problems.  

It comes following a G7 interior minister’s meeting on Wednesday, during which Ms Patel told her French counterpart that the British public ‘expect to see results’ from French efforts to prevent ongoing migrant crossings.

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought ashore from the local lifeboat at Dungeness in Kent, September 7

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought ashore from the local lifeboat at Dungeness in Kent, September 7

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought ashore from the local lifeboat at Dungeness in Kent, September 7

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, aboard a Border Force vessel following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Wednesday September 8

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, aboard a Border Force vessel following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Wednesday September 8

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, aboard a Border Force vessel following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Wednesday September 8

Priti Patel has sanctioned new 'pushback' tactics to stop migrant boats in the Channel and turn them back to France amid crunch talks over crossings

Priti Patel has sanctioned new 'pushback' tactics to stop migrant boats in the Channel and turn them back to France amid crunch talks over crossings

Priti Patel has sanctioned new ‘pushback’ tactics to stop migrant boats in the Channel and turn them back to France amid crunch talks over crossings

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, following a small boat incident in the Channel on September 8

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, following a small boat incident in the Channel on September 8

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, following a small boat incident in the Channel on September 8

Members of Border Force are being given special training to handle migrant boats, but would only deploy the ‘pushback’ tactics when deemed practical and safe to do so. 

Reports suggested such operations were likely to be restricted to sturdier, bigger migrant boats and only used in ‘very limited circumstances’.

Ms Patel and the French interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, held discussions on crossings at Lancaster House in London, in the wake of hundreds of migrants being brought ashore in Kent over the past few days.

Government sources said the pair had a ‘constructive’ meeting in which Ms Patel made clear tackling the number of people making their way from France to the UK on small boats was her ‘number one priority’.

But The Times reported that the French Government said the newly reported turnaround tactics would have ‘a negative impact on our co-operation’.

Migrants in Kent after making the journey yesterday amid a growing row between Priti Patel and France over the crossings

Migrants in Kent after making the journey yesterday amid a growing row between Priti Patel and France over the crossings

Migrants in Kent after making the journey yesterday amid a growing row between Priti Patel and France over the crossings

Pictured: A graph showing the number of migrants crossing the Channel on small boats since 2019. The figure has increased each year

Pictured: A graph showing the number of migrants crossing the Channel on small boats since 2019. The figure has increased each year

Pictured: A graph showing the number of migrants crossing the Channel on small boats since 2019. The figure has increased each year 

France bans sale of inflatable dinghies from Channel towns in bid to stop migrant crossings – but doesn’t stop them being ordered online and delivered 

France has been forced to ban the sale of inflatable dinghies from Channel towns in a bid to try to end a surge in migrant crossings. 

Sports shops dotted around the French coast near the Channel have been told to stop selling the boats and kayaks amid a steady flow of migrants sailing across the waters to the UK. 

But despite the ban, people smugglers are able to get around the restrictions by ordering the inflatable vessels online and getting them delivered to their safe houses, reports The Sun

The boats and kayaks are then transported by the traffickers to points along the coast where migrants hoping to cross the Channel can pick them up.   

Sports retailer Decathlon’s store in Calais showed on their website that boats were not for sale – but the newspaper was able to order a vessel online for £600 and get it home delivered to an address in the coastal city. 

Meanwhile, it is also possible to order an inflatable boat on Amazon to be delivered to addresses in Calais. 

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The paper also said Mr Darmanin had rejected a UK request to set up a joint command centre in northern France, with police and border force officers from both countries patrolling the coastline and the Channel.

It comes just days after Ms Patel is said to have told MPs she is prepared to withhold millions of pounds of cash promised to France to help step up patrols unless an improvement in the number of migrants intercepted by French authorities is seen.

But a Government source said: ‘The Home Secretary was clear with the French interior minister that the British public expect to see results.’.

Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said efforts to stop the crossings depended ‘to a large extent’ on the ability of the French authorities.

According to the Home Office, 785 migrants arrived in the UK on Monday after making the journey from France in small boats, with several young children and a baby among them.

This is the second highest daily total of the year, following the single-day record of 828 people set last month.

The crossings continued on Tuesday and Wednesday during the better weather conditions, with boats arriving at Dover and others being towed on to beaches along the south coast.

Earlier this year, the UK and France announced an agreement to more than double the number of police patrolling French beaches.

It was the second pledge of its kind in a year, in a bid to stop small boats from leaving France.

As part of the deal, the Government pledged to give France £54 million to support its efforts to stop small boat crossings.

Charities urged the Home Office to take a ‘more humane and responsible approach’ towards asylum seekers and said humanitarian visas were needed to help ‘prevent the chaos of the Channel crossings’.

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