Migrant crisis: Priti Patel not included in Calais meetingon November 28, 2021 at 5:11 am

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The home secretary says failure by Europe to co-operate with the UK could lead to “even worse scenes”.

Priti Patel giving a statement on small boat incidents in the Channel on Thursday.

Image source, PA Media

Home Secretary Priti Patel has warned that failure by European politicians to co-operate on the continent’s migrant crisis will lead to “even worse scenes” in the English Channel this winter.

France is due to host German, Belgian and Dutch ministers and European Commission officials for talks.

Ms Patel was disinvited from the summit after a row between Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron.

But she vowed to “continue to push” for improvement to tackle the crisis.

On Friday Prime Minister Boris Johnson publicly shared a letter he had sent to the French president on how to deal with the current situation.

In it he set out five steps – joint patrols of the Channel, better use of technology such as sensors and radar, maritime patrols in each other’s waters, stronger co-operation by intelligence services and negotiation on a policy of returning migrants who reach the UK to France

This letter angered Mr Macron and according to the French government it demonstrated “double talk” from the UK.

This resentment from Paris led to the home secretary’s invitation being revoked.

However, the UK government said that, even if the home secretary does not attend Sunday’s meeting in Calais, British officials will be there.

In light of the Franco-British tensions, Ms Patel said: “The UK cannot tackle this issue alone, and across Europe we all need to step up, take responsibility, and work together in a time of crisis.”

She added: “We will not shy away from the challenge we face, and next week I will continue to push for greater co-operation with European partners because a failure to do so could result in even worse scenes in the freezing water during the coming winter months.”

Ms Patel said the conversations she had on Thursday with her French counterpart, Gerald Darmanin, were “constructive”.

On Wednesday, 27 people drowned as they headed for the UK from France. Their boat sank in the Channel. The International Organization for Migrations said it was the biggest single loss of life in the Channel since it began collecting data in 2014.

Their deaths have raised questions about why so many people are attempting the journey despite the dangerous conditions.

For several years, people smugglers have sent people to the UK in lorries. Although this route is safer than small boats, there have also been tragedies, including the 39 Vietnamese people found dead in a refrigerated lorry in 2019.

However, the security at the Port of Calais in France – where UK border controls operate – has been tightened. This has meant that more attempts are being made to send people by boat, according to Tony Smith, former director general of UK Border Force.

So far this year, the number of people crossing the channel in small boats has far exceeded previous years.

migrants chart. Updated 22 Nov.

Asylum claims to UK are at their highest since 2004, according to official estimates. However, other countries in Europe are also processing a high amount of asylum applications.

Many people fleeing conflict zones already choose to make an asylum claim in the first country they arrive in – such as Greece, Turkey or Italy – and only a minority choose to travel on to the UK.

Last year, Germany had the highest number of asylum applicants in the EU (122,015 applicants), while France had 93,475 applicants.

In the same period the UK received the fifth largest number of applicants (36,041) when compared with countries in the EU (around 7% of the total). This represents the 17th largest intake when measured per head of population, according to UN Refugee Agency.

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