THERE is little that cross-Channel people smugglers like better than the beautiful, sunny weather we’ve experienced in the past few days.
Sudanese migrants arriving by small boat this week[/caption]
When another 287 arrived the following day, it meant 8,452 people had reached Britain by small boat so far this year, already eclipsing the total for the whole of 2020.
And how did Home Secretary Priti Patel respond?
By announcing that another £54.2million of taxpayers’ money will be doled out to France to aid their failing efforts at solving the crisis.
It is simply throwing good money after bad.
Last year, the Government sent France £27.1million to tackle the issue.
We were told French patrols would double and that the cash would help increase security infrastructure and technology.
But the chaos in the English Channel has actually got worse.
As the Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, on the south coast, I know many of my constituents are completely exasperated by the repeated failures.
Today, I asked the Home Secretary some tough questions as she appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee.
She explained that whereas most migrant dinghies were once launched from the Calais area, there was now a “widespread dispersal” of the boats along the French coastline.
I think she is allowing herself to be fobbed off by the French.
There is only one thing that will stop the people-smuggling trade — which sees megabucks funnelled to organised crime — and that is the French turning around the dinghies.
At the moment they are trying to make their problem our problem, so nothing gets solved.
MAKE THINGS WORSE
If anything, it makes things worse for them.
More people clandestinely crossing the Channel means more migrants congregating on the French coast.
I have visited Calais on fact-finding trips and there is a whole range of migrants who want to come to Britain.
There are some unaccompanied children for whom I have the greatest worries and who are vulnerable to all sorts of abuse.
The French social services should take them into care straight away.
There are asylum seekers from war and famine zones, but we also met an awful lot of professional people, with the money to pay people smugglers, who are economic migrants.
The illicit route across the Channel is now seen as a successful way of making it to Britain — and the boats keep coming.
I feel enormous sympathy for the UK Border Force, which has an impossible job because it is not getting the right co-operation from the French.
It is not about lack of detection, it is a lack of enforcement on France’s part.
The French have night-capable, military-grade drones to pick up migrants embarking from their coastline.
Once the drones identify the migrants, there should be squads of French officers to apprehend them straight away.
It was pointed out to the Select Committee that the French are intercepting around treble the number of boats they did last year.
But that is because the overall flow of dinghies has shot up dramatically too.
The truth is, more migrants are making it across the Channel than ever before.
The only way to stem the flow of dinghies is for the French to turn them around and take them back to France.
If our Border Force picks them up in British waters, then they, too, must be allowed to take them back to Calais.
The French have the power to allow both these things to happen under maritime law — they are just not exercising it.
Priti Patel says the French interpret the rules differently.
That is a cop out. It is alarming that she is making excuses for the French.
She has acknowledged that the French are able, under international maritime law, to intercept boats in the water.
Indeed, they have an obligation to do that given there are strong grounds to suspect crimes are being committed.
That is attempting to enter the UK illegally and financing organised crime, let alone the prospect of the boats carrying terrorists or the Beta Covid variant.
When it becomes law, anyone who arrives illegally by boat to claim asylum will be judged to have committed a criminal act.
Their chances of claiming asylum will then be negligible.
That should be a deterrent but if they are coming from a country to which we are unable to repatriate them, then how long can we keep them in jail?
They will be let out then they will be free to remain in the UK.
This week we had the extraordinary situation of a French patrol vessel apparently escorting a migrant boat into British waters and leaving them with a baffled GMB TV crew.
It made a mockery of the whole situation.
The only way you are going to get the message out to people not to make the perilous crossing is to make them understand that if you try to get across the Channel you are highly likely to fail.
Priti Patel announced that another £54.2million of taxpayers’ money will be doled out to France to aid their failing efforts at solving the crisis[/caption]
Most read in Opinion
And that you have taken a dangerous journey with people smugglers for nothing.
So the French must turn back the boats.
And if they do not, the next time they ask for a handout to ease the problem, the Home Secretary must reply with a firm: “Non.”