Government ‘throwing good money after bad’ with migrant spending, MP says
The Government is being “fobbed off” by the French authorities, a Conservative MP has said, after it announced it will send them a further £54.2 million to help stem the flow of migrants crossing the Channel in small boats.
The Home Office said the money would be spent on doubling the numbers of police patrolling France’s northern beaches, improving intelligence sharing and on new technology to target people smugglers.
The announcement followed the news that a record-breaking number of people have crossed the Channel already this year.
At least 8,452 people have made the journey, according to data compiled by the PA news agency, surpassing the total for all of 2020.
But during a Commons Home Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday, Conservative MP Tim Loughton pointed out that last year the Government had sent France 31.4 million euro (£27.1 million) to tackle the issue.
“Since that time, you now have a record number of boats which have come across the channel, and the number of interceptions by the French has actually fallen,” Mr Loughton said.
Referring to the new £54 million sum, he asked: “Isn’t that throwing good money after bad?”
Priti Patel replied: “This is an evolving situation, the numbers of migrants attempting these crossings from France has increased considerably.”
She added: “Our counterparts in France, our operational partners as well as our operational partners in the UK which involves our intelligence partners, have seen complete change in modus operandi in terms of the crossings.”
Mr Patel said that instead of the majority of migrants coming from Calais, there was now a “widespread dispersal” of launches along the entire French coastline.
Mr Loughton accused the Home Secretary of allowing France to “make a mockery” of international law, obliging them to intercept boats and return them to French territory if they have launched from France.
“Yesterday we had a French military naval vessel escorting one of the boats into British territorial waters, and then tried to hand over the occupants to a boat full of journalists,” he said.
He added: “This is ridiculous and it makes a mockery of it, so just giving the French more money to carry on doing what they’re doing badly is not going to solve the problem.”
Mr Loughton said the Home Secretary was being “fobbed off with excuses” by the French.
Paul Lincoln, director general of Border Force, told the committee the number of French interceptions of small boats crossing the Channel had trebled in a year from more than 2,100 at the end of June last year to more than 6,000 for the same period this year.
Ms Patel said: “I have absolutely discussed directly with my French counterpart.”
She added: “We have absolutely been looking at what we can do at sea in terms of maritime tactics all within the legal framework, absolutely within the legal framework, of saving lives at sea and international maritime law, and the French are aware of that as well.
“They absolutely know what their responsibilities are.”
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, said: “Making yet another agreement to pay France to deter and prevent people reaching UK shores is not going to make anything better or anyone safer.
“There is no escaping the fact that the Home Office is shirking its responsibility to share with other countries, including France, in providing asylum.
“A change of policy is urgently needed to provide safe routes to the UK, particularly for refugees with family and connections here, not ministers merely doubling down on their failed approach.”