The Daily Telegraph

French refuse to stop migrants reaching UK

Different interpreta­tion of maritime law has created a defiance around turning back Channel vessels

- By Charles Hymas

The French have told Britain they will not stop migrants at sea despite receiving £54 million from the UK to combat illegal Channel crossings. Pierre-henri Dumont, MP for Calais, said French vessels would not intervene to halt migrants’ boats and would instead allow them safe passage unless they specifical­ly asked for help. Yesterday, Tory MPS said the French stance “made a mockery” of the UK. It came as a further 240 migrants reached British shores yesterday.

The French have told Britain they will not stop migrants at sea despite receiving £54million from the UK to combat illegal Channel migration.

Pierre-henri Dumont, MP for Calais, said French vessels would not intervene to halt migrants boats and would instead allow them safe passage unless they specifical­ly asked the French for help.

“If they are small boats trying to cross the sea and [migrants] are not asking for help, we are not supposed to intervene. It is not forbidden for people to be at sea. We have no legal basis to intervene when they are in French waters at sea,” he said.

The defiant comments stem from the French interpreta­tion of maritime law and follow Tuesday’s incident when a French warship escorted a dinghy crammed with 13 migrants and left them with a Good Morning Britain TV news crew’s boat.

Yesterday, Tory MPS said the French stance “made a mockery” of the British and warned the Home Secretary she would be “throwing good money after bad” unless she persuaded France to change its stance and apprehend illegal Channel migrants at sea and return them to Calais.

It came as a further 240 migrants reached the UK yesterday following a record daily total of 430 on Monday and 287 on Tuesday, pushing the total for the year so far to 8,700, some 300 more than during the whole of 2020.

Tim Loughton, a former Conservati­ve minister, said internatio­nal maritime lawyers had ruled that the French could intercept migrants’ boats at sea, apprehend them and return them to France.

Border Force vessels were also legally entitled to use the same tactics on boats when they reached British waters in the Channel and return them to France if the French agreed, he told the home affairs committee.

It was justified because the migrants were guilty of two crimes – illegal entry and paying money to organised traffickin­g gangs.

Yet, Mr Loughton said: “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. 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.”

His comments followed a new Anglofrenc­h agreement in which Britain will pay France £54million to boost police and surveillan­ce on the French beaches in a bid to prevent the migrants setting out for the UK. It follows a similar £28million package last November.

Ms Patel said she had pushed the French to accept the UK interpreta­tion of maritime law. “I have absolutely discussed it directly with my French counterpar­t,” she said. “We have absolutely been looking at what we can do at sea in terms of maritime tactics all within the legal framework of saving lives at sea and internatio­nal maritime law, and the French are aware of that as well. They … know what their responsibi­lities are.”

But she said the French had a “different interpreta­tion” of the laws on saving lives at sea, which meant they would not stop or turn round boats.

She defended the extra £54million for the French, saying a similar deal last year had seen the number of migrants prevented from leaving land to cross the Channel treble from 2,600 in 2020, to 7,500 this year.

Yesterday Ms Patel also rebuked a group of Labour MPS for challengin­g her decision to deport 20 foreign criminals convicted of murder, rape, sexual offences against children and violence to Zimbabwe.

“It is sad but not unsurprisi­ng that the Labour Party is standing on the side of the criminal minority instead of the victims affected by these heinous crimes,” she said.

 ??  ?? Migrants, including babies, arrive at Dover in Kent yesterday after being picked up at sea by Border Force vessels
Migrants, including babies, arrive at Dover in Kent yesterday after being picked up at sea by Border Force vessels

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