‘Call in the military!’: Ex-chief immigration officer says Border Force is ‘operating a migrant collection service in the Channel’ as dozens more arrive in UK today and furious Tories accuse Priti of being ‘fobbed off by French excuses’

  • Furious Tories ordered Home Secretary Priti Patel to get tough with France and stop being ‘fobbed off’
  • Ms Patel said millions who have travelled across Europe are amassing ‘along entire French coastline’  
  • Tim Loughton said ‘giving France more money to carry on doing what they’re doing badly, it’s ridiculous’ 
  • MP for Calais today rubbished the Home Secretary’s latest £54million payment to France as pointless 
  • Ex-Chief Immigration Officer urged that military should be brought in to manage crisis in the Channel 

Furious Tory MPs today ordered Home Secretary Priti Patel to get tough with France and stop being ‘fobbed off with excuses’ after a former Chief Immigration Officer said Border Force should call in the military because the French are refusing to intercept migrants in the Channel.

Addressing the Commons Home Affairs Committee, Ms Patel this morning revealed that 60 per cent of illegal arrivals have come via Belgium and that migrants who have travelled across Continental Europe are amassing ‘along the entire French coastline’, not just in Calais.

When asked why French authorities were not stopping boats from crossing after the number of illegal crossings in 2021 hit a record annual high of nearly 8,500, Ms Patel insisted they are ‘doing their bit’ and told astonished MPs they ‘have a different interpretation of saving lives at sea’.

But Tory MP Tim Loughton interrupted her, saying: ‘Home Secretary, that’s an excuse from the French. The French having a different interpretation is the French giving you an excuse for not doing what they are not only able to do under international law but actually obliged to do under international law.

‘Because two crimes are being committed by the occupants of those boats: one is trying to enter the UK allegedly and the second is paying money to organised crime. Both of which provide grounds for those boats to be intercepted, the occupants apprehended in as safe a way as possible and returned to France. You are getting fobbed off with excuses.’

He added that the French ‘are not doing their part’ and that ‘giving them more money to carry on doing what they’re doing badly, it’s ridiculous’. Ms Patel last night agreed to pay France £54million to get policing numbers more than doubled to 200 – nearly double the £28million agreed with French authorities to achieve the same objective in November.

Paul Lincoln, director general of Border Force, told the committee that the number of French interceptions of small boats crossing the Channel had ‘trebled’ in a year from more than 2,100 at the end of June last year to more than 6,000 for the same period this year.

It comes as retired immigration official Kevin Saunders told GB News that the military should be called in because Border Force is just ‘operating a collection service from the Channel’.

He said: ‘We’ve got to do something. I think probably we’ve now reached the point where we need to bring the military in to help us. All really Border Force are doing is operating a collection service from the Channel. We need to stop these people.

‘We need the military to actually come and take over and help us to do this.’

This morning the MP for Calais, Pierre-Henri Dumont, rubbished Ms Patel’s latest £54million payment to France as pointless because migrants will ‘just find somewhere else to cross’. His remarks were echoed by Tony Smith, the former Director-General of Border Force, who said there is a ‘game of cat-and-mouse’ between French authorities and people-smugglers along the French coast.

There will also be an increased use of aerial surveillance, including drones, and the two countries agreed to draw up a long-term plan for a ‘smart border’ using technology to identify where crossings are being attempted. But the deal failed to impress critics, who accuse the French authorities of not doing enough to stop small boats leaving their territorial waters.

It follows claims that a French warship yesterday escorted a group of 13 migrants in a dangerously-overcrowded boat into British waters before dumping them with a baffled Good Morning Britain news crew reporting live from the Channel.

Early this morning, 13 men from Sudan and South Sudan were seen paddling across the Channel 10 miles off the coast of France. An image of the migrants, without lifejackets and an engine, was shared on Twitter by ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers.

It comes as:

  • Border Force officials intercepted 287 migrants in the Channel as number of annual arrivals breaks records;
  • Ex-Border Force chief urged Britain and France to begin joint patrols to turn back migrants out at sea; 
  • Unions warned that Border Force officials are stretched as they struggle to maintain crisis in the Channel and process hundreds of arrivals in Kent;
  • Downing Street attacked the ‘dangerous and unnecessary’ surge in migrants crossing the Channel;
  • Some migrants have described how they paid people-smuggling gangs £3,000 per person for places on dinghies to make the crossing from France;
  • Home Office blamed rise in Channel crossings on ‘surge in illegal migration across Europe’.

More migrants are intercepted in the Channel by Border Force and brought to Dover in Kent today

Migrants from mostly Sudan were pictured paddling across the Channel 10 miles off the coast of France, ITV reported

Up to 30 migrants are brought ashore by Border Force officials this morning as the crisis in the Channel continues

The number of migrants crossing the Channel between 2019-21 has been increasing year-on-year. The graph above shows how many have crossed each month. The red line for 2021 soars above the lines for previous years, showing the monthly total is now at its highest ever

The number of migrants crossing the Channel between 2019-21 has been increasing year-on-year. The graph above shows how many have crossed each month. The red line for 2021 soars above the lines for previous years, showing the monthly total is now at its highest ever

Furious Tory MPs today ordered Home Secretary Priti Patel to get tough with France and stop being 'fobbed off with excuses'
Furious Tory MPs today ordered Home Secretary Priti Patel to get tough with France and stop being ‘fobbed off with excuses’

The number of migrants to reach the UK in small boats so far this year exceeded the whole of last year’s figures on Tuesday as 287 were intercepted by Border Force officers.

But before 8am today the Border Force patrol vessel Hunter brought in around 20 migrants – mostly wearing bright orange life jackets – were brought into Dover Marina and handed over to the care of immigration officers.

A French navy patrol vessel the Flamant was also seen positioned in the middle of the 21-mile wide Dover Straits this morning.

The weather in the Channel is expected deteriorate towards the end of the week giving smugglers a narrow window. Some migrants have described how they paid £3,000 per person for places on dinghies to make the crossing from France.

Border Force patrol boat Speedwell arrived around 11.20am carrying around 35 migrants at Dover marina including eight toddlers being carried by their parents.

Migrants on board the boat appeared to be a mix of men, women and children of African and Middle Eastern origin. They were wearing orange life jackets and face masks.

Young children, alongside their parents, were the first to be escorted off the boat. One girl, who was around four years old, was wearing a blue parka jacket and pink socks. She was carried off the boat by her father, who was wearing a red beanie hat.

Several families of African origin followed them off the vessel and into a fenced off area at Dover Port for registration. A dark grey motorised dinghy was being pulled behind the boat.

Around 12 immigration enforcement officers greeted the migrants as they disembarked the vessel. One man in a yellow and black check shirt was seen limping as he came off the boat.

All had their lifejackets removed before they were handed over to immigration officers.

At least a staggering 8,446 have now made the treacherous crossing so far this year, according to official figures – compared to the record number of 8,410 in the whole of 2020. The Home Office revealed 287 made the crossing in 12 boats on Tuesday.

The French authorities made just two interceptions, preventing 50 people from reaching the UK on the same day.

Mr Dumont told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The fact is, having more money, having more police, having more controls will not prevent more crossing attempts. We have too many kilometers 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 per cent 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.’

Responding to Mr Dumont’s comments, Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins told the BBC that she believes Ms Patel’s ‘very significant agreement’ with the French is likely to curb the number of migrants crossing the Channel from northern France.

She also told Radio 4’s Today programme that ‘developed economies around the world are facing issues with population movement’ but said that Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union had ‘enabled us to take steps’ to ‘really crack-down’ on people-smugglers.

‘Last night was a very significant agreement that the Home Secretary made with her counterpart,’ Ms Atkins said. ‘We know that the agreement that was reached in November has seen some 7,500 people being prevented from crossing the Channel, and so in doubling – as we have from last night – doubling the number of police officers that are patrolling the French coast, as well as investment, further investment in surveillance technology and other measures, we do believe that this will help to stem the flow of people seeking to make that very dangerous crossing.’

Pressed on the fact that the number of of illegal crossings has increased on Ms Patel’s watch, Ms Atkins said: ‘We are working both internationally and nationally to try to address this. It is incredibly complicated.

Immigration.