Efforts between Britain and France to curb illegal crossings of the Channel have been hit by recent tensions – on the same day it was revealed only five migrants have so far been returned to Europe this year after making the trip to Britain by boat.
Home Secretary Priti Patel this week met his French counterpart, Gerald Darmanin, after the number of people arriving in Britain via canal boat crossings recently. broke a record for a single day.
Following the conclusion of Monday’s meeting, the Home Office released what it said was a joint statement between Ms Patel and Mr Darmanin.
It said the couple had “agreed to speed up the delivery of the commitments” made in July “to fulfill their joint decision to prevent 100% of crossings and make this deadly route unrealizable”.
But the French embassy in Britain has now questioned the statement, posting on its Twitter account on Wednesday that the “100% figure was not agreed” between Ms Patel and Mr Darmanin and “should not be presented as an agreed commitment:” it is not. “
“And it’s not part of the joint statement,” the tweet added.
For the record, the 100% figure was not agreed between the interior minister and the French interior minister. @GDarmanin and should not be presented as an agreed commitment: it is not. And it is not part of the joint statement. # Channel crossings
– French Embassy in the United Kingdom (@FranceintheUK) November 17, 2021
After the embassy’s intervention, Interior Ministry sources revealed comments from Mr Darmanin at a press conference last month at which the French interior minister was quoted as saying that Britain and France “should be able to reach 100%”. [of interceptions] if we push resources and if our British friends continue to help us as they do now ”.
Tensions have risen between French officials and the Home Office after British Prime Minister Tom Pursglove told lawmakers that only five migrants who had crossed the Channel by boat to Britain had been returned to European countries so far this year.
In all, more than 23,000 people have arrived in the UK by small boats this year, compared to 8,500 in 2020, Mr Pusglove told the House of Commons home affairs committee on Wednesday.
Labor MP Yvette Cooper, the committee’s chairman, challenged the minister that Britain’s ability to return migrants to the EU had “substantially deteriorated” after the end of an asylum deal with the bloc after Brexit.
She said the agreement “allowed us to return several hundred people a year to EU member states”.
According to data from the Home Office, between January 2019 and March 2020 – when EU asylum rules still applied to the UK – more than 155 people who entered Britain illegally by small boats were returned to Europe.
“You will appreciate that there have been some difficulties in securing returns, not least as a consequence of COVID, which is an important context that I think we need to consider,” Mr Pursglove told the committee.
“The ambition remains to ensure successful return arrangements with our European friends and neighbors and, possibly, with the EU.”
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Mr Pursglove, a minister in both the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, acknowledged that small boat arrivals “are becoming the election route for facilitating bad criminal gangs”.
“The smugglers are getting bolder, we’re seeing more risky behaviors,” he said.
“We see larger boats deployed. We see a wider set of crossings coming from a wider piece of shore.”
And he confessed that “a fivefold increase in hidden arrivals this summer compared to 2018 is completely unacceptable.”
“We need to do better about that,” Mr. Pursglove added. “And I won’t rest until we get to a much better place on this issue.”