France must let British officers patrol beaches or there'll be more migrant deaths at sea, urges Tory MP Tim Loughton

France must let British officers patrol beaches or there'll be more migrant deaths at sea, urges Tory MP Tim Loughton

November 25, 2021

THE loss of 27 lives in the freezing waters of the English Channel is a deeply upsetting tragedy.

With so many flimsy dinghies crossing one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, it is a miracle this has not happened before.


The sad truth, I believe, is that we now have mass fatalities as a consequence of how France is failing to police its coastline.

The picture on the front page of The Sun yesterday illustrated what is going on. It showed dozens of migrants lugging another huge dinghy down the beach, under the noses of French police.

Sitting in a truck on the sand, gendarmes made no effort to stop them — just hours before the disaster that left so many dead.

It gives the lie to the idea that French police are working flat out to intercept these craft and that they can’t monitor the whole coastline because of a lack of resources.

It was happening in plain sight before them. With a Gallic shrug of shoulders, they allowed it to go on.

All this despite millions of pounds of BRITISH taxpayers’ money being doled out to the French authorities to help them patrol their Channel coast.

We could fund double the number of French police but it they are not serious about intercepting migrant groups in broad daylight, it would further anger taxpayers here by throwing more good money after bad.

I believe this reluctance to intervene, this refusal to get involved, is a political decision.

President Emmanuel Macron is seeking re-election next year and thinks dumping on the British will win him votes.

There are still sour grapes about Brexit and an element of payback over fishing licences too.

Politics looms large this side of the Channel too. As thousands arrived in dinghies this year, Tory MPs are getting lots of emails from constituents.

They say things like: “We voted for you to get Brexit done, which included controlling our borders — and you’re the party of law and order.

“Now, on your watch, 24,000 people have come to this country on dinghies — and are still coming.”

I can understand voters asking: “What’s happening?”

This is a totemic issue the Government has to solve.

Clearly, the deadly cross-Channel dinghy business will only be stopped if the French intercept migrants on land and at sea

But most of the cards are in the hands of the French and there is no silver bullet at our disposal without their co-operation.

Solutions such as pushing flimsy dinghies back in these dangerous waters are simply not going to happen.

If it did, you would end up with dead bodies on our side of the Channel too.

It is down to the professionalism of our Border Force, our coastguards and the RNLI that not a single life, incredibly, has been lost in British waters.

Wednesday’s tragedy is a powerful wake-up call reminding us that both governments must work together to solve the problem at source, preferably before migrants get anywhere near the beaches.

Clearly, the deadly cross-Channel dinghy business will only be stopped if the French intercept migrants on land and at sea.

Why would you pay £4,000 to a people-smuggler for a return journey back to France, courtesy of the French border force?

The French have claimed intercepting dinghies off their coast is unsafe, that people would end up in the water and would drown.

Yet that is what happened here without the police intervening.

French police must be more vigorous at stopping migrants on land. At the moment, even if the smugglers are apprehended, officers simply confiscate the boat and the migrants go free.

We must find safer legal routes for people who can legitimately claim asylum

Then — surprise, surprise — they are back the following night with a new boat, again trying to reach Britain.

I welcome Home Secretary Priti Patel’s repeated offer yesterday for British officers to jointly patrol French beaches.

At the moment, it is clearly not working. So let’s have joint patrols.

The French boast they have stopped 19,000 boat journeys. And they probably have.

But that includes many people who have been stopped before having another go — and many of them will be among the 24,000 who tried again and got lucky.

The French should be arresting them and taking them to the reception centres we in part pay for to process their asylum claims there.

Those in real need should be allowed to put in a claim to Britain from these French reception centres. Those who do not meet the requirements should be deported.

Many migrants do not want to go to these centres because they have already had an asylum claim turned down in another country or they are not eligible in the first place.

We must find safer legal routes for people who can legitimately claim asylum.

As it stands, the only real way someone from Syria or Sudan can get here is on a family reunion scheme.

If you have got a claim to be here, fine. If you have not, don’t try coming.

We need proper, safe and legal routes as we have successfully run before, whereby refugees genuinely fleeing danger can apply from their home country or refugee camps nearby and go through due process.

If you have got a claim to be here, fine. If you have not, don’t try coming.

And certainly don’t pay the people-smugglers for whom this is big business and life is cheap.

Wednesday’s tragedy shows how French inaction can have deadly consequences.

Until now, the only consequence was to make a Continental problem a British one.

They must work with our Government on the practical solutions we have put forward.

Otherwise, further tragic mass drownings are just a matter of time.



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