Priti Patel’s Channel boats deal will have no impact, Calais MP claims

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The Home Secretary made a £54million payment to France to tackle the issue of migrants crossing the Channel. The news comes after a record number of illegal migrants crossed the Channel in one day. The number of migrants who made the journey on Tuesday reached 287. This means that 2021’s total stands at 8,474 so far. And now Pierre-Henri Dumont, Calais’ conservative MP, has claimed that the measures are pointless as people smugglers will “just find somewhere else to cross”.

Speaking to Radio 4 he said: “We know that the agreement that was reached in November has seen some 7,500 people prevented from crossing the Channel.

“So, in doubling the number of police officers patrolling the French coast, as well as further investment in surveillance technology and other measures, we do believe this will help to stem the flow of people seeking to make that very dangerous crossing.”

He continued: “The fact is, having more money, having more police, having more controls will not prevent more crossing attempts. We have too many kilometres of shore to monitor. They can hide in a lot of places, there are a lot of roads, woods and trees.

“So even if you are monitoring 100 percent of a small or large part of the French coast the smugglers will find somewhere to cross somewhere else.

“If it’s not Calais they will go to Normandy, if not Normandy then Belgium or the Netherlands.”

The former director general of the Border Force, Tony Smith, added that the French authorities were engaged in a “game of cat and mouse” with the people smugglers.

Mr Smith said: “We can’t really control what they do, what we can do is encourage them to try to do more to disrupt the gangs, but we can’t actually do any patrols ourselves because we don’t have that agreement where we can exercise joint patrols with the French.

“That is possible in international law, it does happen in other countries.

“But unfortunately, we haven’t got that agreement yet with a friend so it’s not going to put a stop to the problem, but it will be a thorn in the side of the smugglers.

“And it will make it more difficult for them certainly to operate, particularly in these very fine weather conditions.”

Priti Patel claimed that there was a sharp increase in migrants crossing the Channel, and she blamed it on a “complete change in the operation” from the people smugglers.

Ms Patel said: “We are seeing widespread dispersal along the entire French coastline.”

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The Home Secretary pointed out that France has intercepted triple the number of attempts since the last £28million deal signed in November.

Ms Patel also said that more migrants are now making their journey via Belgium, which leads to an increase in numbers.

She added that the French had a “different interpretation of saving lives at sea”.

France, unlike the UK, are not obliged to assist migrant boats and escort them to shore.

However, Tim Loughton, Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, urged her to take a firmer line on the French, telling her: “You are getting fobbed off with excuses.”

Gérald Darmanin, the French interior minister, said the latest Anglo-French agreement on strengthening security on the French Channel coast was “historic”.

Mr Darmanin tweeted: “Video conference with my British counterpart Priti Patel to sign a historic accord. The United Kingdom undertakes to pay €62.7 million to fight against the cross-Channel clandestine immigration.”

Victoria Atkins, a Home Office minister, added: “We know that the agreement that was reached in November has seen some 7,500 people prevented from crossing the Channel.

“So, in doubling the number of police officers patrolling the French coast, as well as further investment in surveillance technology and other measures, we do believe this will help to stem the flow of people seeking to make that very dangerous crossing.”

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