‘Exasperated’ Boris Johnson orders review into Channel migrant crisis and urges ministers to ‘redouble efforts’ to find a fix as Home Secretary Priti Patel explores ‘Greek-style’ asylum system after a record 4,000 crossings this month
The Prime Minister has ordered a Whitehall review into the cross-Channel migrant crisis, it emerged last night.
Boris Johnson is said to be ‘exasperated’ by his Government’s failure to reduce the number of migrants on small boats making the journey and wants ministers to ‘redouble’ efforts to ‘fix’ the crisis.
Former Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has been put in charge of the review, according to The Times.
It will seek to find solutions to the crisis and make sure all departments – not only the Home Office – are contributing.
The review follows a week of record migrant Channel crossings, with 1,000 reaching the British shores on Tuesday alone and around 24,000 making the journey this year. The figure is almost triple the number that arrived in 2020.
Mr Johnson’s frustration comes after a series of promises made by Home Secretary Priti Patel to tackle the crisis.
They culminated this week with the suggestion that asylum seekers could be sent abroad for processing. Countries including Albania are being considered as possible destinations.
Last night it emerged that Ms Patel is planning a Greek-style crackdown on migrants which will see new restrictions imposed on asylum seekers, as well the construction of new purpose-built reception centres, according to The Daily Telegraph.
In Greece, migrants face regular checks on their movements which include curfews to stop them going off the radar.
The Prime Minister has ordered a Whitehall review into the cross-Channel migrant crisis, it emerged last night. Boris Johnson is said to be ‘exasperated’ by his Government’s failure to reduce the number of migrants on small boats making the journey and wants ministers to ‘redouble’ efforts to ‘fix’ the crisis
Speaking of Mr Johnson’s frustration that the migrant crisis has not yet been solved, a senior government source said the PM saw it as one of his biggest priorities and he was concerned that ‘after two years there are still no viable solutions’.
Germany becoming a hub for migrants trying to get to Britain
Germany is becoming a hub for migrants attempting to reach Britain, it emerged last night.
Asylum seekers are massing in the country as a new staging post for Channel crossings masterminded by people-smuggling gangs.
Organised crime groups are also using German sites to store dinghies and other small boats used to attempt crossings, sources said.
A UK government source described Germany as ‘the established hub for criminal trafficking gangs’ in Europe.
It is also a key location in the criminals’ supply chains, where boats, life jackets and other equipment is sourced for Channel crossings, they added.
‘Boris is exasperated. He’s told ministers to redouble efforts to fix this, no matter how difficult it is,’ they said.
‘If it looks bad now, it’s going to look much worse in spring when it’s warmer.’
In new plans being drawn up by the Home Office, migrants will have asylum claims thrown out if they abscond or misbehave.
The changes – which will require legislation – will be crucial in the operation of the new processing centres, which will house asylum seekers while their cases are scrutinised.
Migrants could also be issued with ‘asylum apps’ to track the progress of their applications on smartphones or computers in the centres.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has been impressed by the way Greece has digitised its asylum application process to track cases, sped up decisions and cut down on unnecessary paperwork.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Miss Patel said Greece had decided ‘not to sit behind the EU block of competency’.
Ministers are also keen to avoid a repeat of riots at asylum centres.
‘If they breach the rules, it will affect their asylum claim,’ a source said.
‘They would be told they have to be back in by a certain time, and so on. Terms would include preventing absconding.’
Some previously reported plans to tackle crossings have included the use of giant wave machines, nets to snare boat propellers and floating walls in the sea.
However, Dan O’Mahoney, the Home Office’s Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, told the Home Affairs Select Committee earlier this week that they were never considered’.
He added that the wave machine idea is ‘bizarre’.
But the move to bring in Mr Barclay could be seen as an admission that the Home Secretary has not managed to tackle the issue.
It comes after Sir Keir Starmer accused Ms Patel of failing to deliver on promises to stem the flow of illegal migrants crossing the Channel.
The Labour leader said Ms Patel has not secured strong enough agreements with the French government to prevent migrants making the dangerous sea journey.
The review follows a week of record migrant Channel crossings, with 1,000 reaching the British shores on Tuesday alone and more than 24,000 making the journey this year. The figure is almost triple the number that arrived in 2020. Above: Migrants arriving in Dover yesterday
It is thought at least 10 migrants have died in the last few weeks while trying to make the dangerous crossing. Above: Migrants aboard a Border Force rescue boat yesterday
Last night it emerged that Ms Patel is planning a Greek-style crackdown on migrants which will see new restrictions imposed on asylum seekers, as well the construction of new purpose-built reception centres
The new arrivals bring the total number to have made it to the UK this month to 4,019, exceeding the previous record of 3,879 in September. This year’s total is now a record-breaking 23,761
He said the Home Secretary repeatedly used ‘strong language’ to say how she would tackle the problem, but delivered ‘absolutely nothing’.
Again and again, how Priti Patel’s promises came to nothing
October 15, 2019
Priti Patel vows to halve migrant crossings – then a tenth of the current level – by the end of the month and make them an ‘infrequent phenomenon’ by the spring of 2020.
‘I am absolutely committed to doing everything in my power to stop these dangerous Channel crossings which are putting vulnerable lives at risk.’
WHAT HAPPENED? Migrant numbers hit a record 1,185 in a day last week.
August 7, 2020
The Home Secretary backs sending Royal Navy patrols into the Channel.
‘The number of illegal small boat crossings is appalling and unacceptably high.’
WHAT HAPPENED? Within hours, Ministry of Defence sources suggested the proposals were unworkable.
July 6, 2021
Miss Patel unveils powers for UK Border Force to turn back migrant boats and reduce asylum rights for people who arrive in Britain illegally.
‘Access to the UK’s asylum system should be based on need, not the ability to pay people smugglers.’
WHAT HAPPENED? The tactics have yet to be used amid opposition from France and even the UK Border Force over legal concerns.
She agrees to give France another £54million to tackle the crisis.
‘The public are rightly angry that small boats are arriving on our shores, facilitated by appalling criminal gangs who profit from human misery and put lives at risk.’
WHAT HAPPENED? In October France accused the UK of withholding the money amid a row over whether Paris was doing enough to stop the boats. The first instalment of UK cash was later paid – but numbers coming over the Channel continue to rocket.
Miss Patel and French counterpart, Gerald Darmanin, vow they will deliver on their pledge to prevent ‘100 per cent’ of illegal crossings.
JOINT STATEMENT: ‘More must be done to stop the dangerous crossings… and make this deadly route unviable.’
WHAT HAPPENED? Days later the French embassy in London said 100 per cent ‘should not be presented as an agreed figure’.
The Home Secretary launches an attack on the EU’s open borders policy, blaming Brussels for the crisis.
‘The real problem on illegal migration flows is the EU has no border protections whatsoever – open borders. On stopping crossings, France can’t do it on their own. They simply can’t.’
WHAT HAPPENED? Free movement for people between member states in the so-called Schengen area is a fundamental EU principle and there is no prospect of it being changed.
His attack came as Ms Patel blamed the EU’s open borders – established by the Schengen Agreement – for failing to check the movement of people through the bloc.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to Washington, she said she was ‘constantly pressing’ the French on the issue, but that they were ‘overwhelmed’.
‘Let’s not forget that the real problem on illegal migration flows is the EU has no border protections whatsoever – Schengen open borders,’ she was quoted as saying.
It is thought at least 10 migrants have died in the last few weeks while trying to make the dangerous crossing.
It comes as campaigners threatened the Home Secretary with legal action over so-called pushbacks after reports she had sanctioned the tactics to turn migrants around back towards France at sea.
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron is reported to have said the British ‘oscillate between partnership and provocation’ when discussing the migrant crisis in an interview with Lille-based newspaper la Voix du Nord, adding: ‘We need to further strengthen collaboration.’
Officials have described how violence levelled at French police has intensified recently, highlighting incidents where an officer had their ear bitten off, and another where canisters of CS gas had to be used to disperse a group of migrants.
Downing Street said the Government was continuing to work ‘extremely closely’ with the French authorities on the issue, but that the problem required a co-ordinated response from countries across Europe.
‘We are facing a global migration crisis choreographed by organised crime groups who put people on these boats to make these incredibly dangerous crossings,’ a No 10 spokesman said.
‘This is an urgent issue for the whole of Europe, requiring incredibly close working together with our neighbours – France, Belgium and the Netherlands – as well as our friends across the continent. It is a shared problem so we need shared solutions.’
Sir Keir said the Government also had only itself to blame for the failings in Britain’s ‘busted’ asylum system.
Ms Patel complained earlier this week that a ‘dysfunctional’ system had allowed Liverpool bomber Emad Al Swealmeen to remain in the UK despite reportedly having had an asylum application rejected in 2015.
Sir Keir said: ‘My jaw dropped when I heard the Home Secretary say that the problem is that the asylum system is busted.
‘This Government has been in power for 11 years. If the asylum system is busted it is busted under their watch.
‘Asylum applications used to be dealt with in about six months many years ago. It now takes years. All of us MPs have constituents who have been waiting two years or more for their case even to be looked at.
‘So if the asylum system is busted the question is who busted it and the answer is the Government.’
Meanwhile, the Albanian ambassador to Britain flatly denied reports his country has been in discussions with the Government about hosting a processing centre for migrants who arrive in the UK.
Qirjako Qirko told LBC radio that there had been ‘zero talks’ between the two countries on the issue.
‘It’s absolutely fake news because as my prime minister stated yesterday – the foreign minister also tweeted yesterday – that doesn’t exist, any negotiations between Albania and the UK regarding these processing centres,’ he said.
‘It will not be changed because my prime minister was crystal clear yesterday when he said that Albania… will never be a processing centre for illegal immigrants.’
Speaking on a trip this week, Ms Patel said offshore processing centres remained ‘on the table’ but refused to discuss specific negotiations.
There have been suggestions that migrants could be sent and held abroad – such as in Albania – while their cases are looked at.
‘We keep everything on the table… and this is why the new Nationality and Borders Bill is just so important,’ she said.
Newly arrived migrants are seen on board a bus in Dover harbour after crossing the channel, in Dover, Britain, November 18
Migrants are escorted into Dover harbour by Border Force officials, after crossing the channel. In new plans being drawn up by the Home Office, migrants will have asylum claims thrown out if they abscond or misbehave
‘I’m the only Home Secretary over a 20-year period that has taken on the challenge of reforming what is fundamentally a broken system of asylum and illegal migration.’ She admitted for the first time that Britain was facing a ‘mass migration crisis’.
And, after months of friction with the French government, Ms Patel appeared to change her tone when she said the flow of small boats needs to be treated as a ‘Europe-wide problem’.
She said France was ‘overwhelmed’ by asylum seekers heading for the UK.
And she blamed Brussels – which governs EU border policy – for failing to act. ‘Let’s not forget the real problem on illegal migration flows is [that] the EU has no border protections whatsoever,’ she said.
‘On stopping crossings, France can’t do it on their own. Other countries have to do much more in terms of border protection.’
Seven out of ten migrants who attempt to cross the Channel have entered France through Belgium according to French officials, Miss Patel said.
Video footage taken this Tuesday – the same day that a staggering 1,000 migrants made it to the UK – showed groups of migrants, including young children, clapped in celebration as they managed to restart their boat’s engine on a Calais beach
She added: ‘The EU’s Schengen zone is free movement and open borders. They do not have border controls and border checks.
‘There is no united position across EU member states in terms of how to tackle this issue. It’s an EU competency issue.’
Deploying highly-charged language, the Home Secretary went on: ‘There is a mass migration crisis. I’ve said this from day one – from the minute I walked into the Home Office. For everyone who complains about this – and no-one is more angry and frustrated about this than myself, alongside the British taxpayers – there isn’t a silver bullet.
‘There’s no point saying, ‘Well, you could just push boats back’. It will not stop it. There are all sorts of issues with criminal gangs, smugglers, etc.’ Ms Patel said of the French: ‘I think it’s fair to say they are overwhelmed. That is a fact.
‘We are constantly pressing France on this and we’re asking them to be honest with us about where the gaps are because they can’t be everywhere. We have a very, very professional working relationship, but no one country can fix this on their own.’