Joint sea patrols and a deal to send migrants back to France are the only ways to stop more small boats crossing the Channel, a former borders chief warned on Wednesday as a row erupted over a £54 million government handout to Paris.
In an agreement announced on Tuesday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the money would pay for a doubling of patrols along France’s northern coast and promote increased intelligence sharing. It will also be used to deploy “cutting-edge technology to target criminal people smugglers”.
But as Labour accused the Government of making “empty promises” and a French parliamentarian warned that the money would not stop the flow of migrants, Tony Smith, a former head of the UK Border Force, also said that the latest effort was unlikely to succeed.
He emphasised that the extra patrols were a “good investment” but said the only solution was an agreement between Britain and France to allow joint sea patrols and the return of any migrants who cross back to France.
In November, Britain paid £28 million to Paris to counter small boat crossings. The Home Office claims that prevented about 7,500 migrants crossing, but the numbers have still surged with the total this year already surpassing the 8,461 in 2020.
On Wednesday, Pierre-Henri Dumont, a French MP for Calais, said: “Having more money, having more police officers, more controls, will not prevent the crossing attempts and will not prevent people succeed in those crossing attempts.”
Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, added: “As long ago as August 2020, ministers promised a new ‘joint operational plan’ with France would be in place ‘in the coming days’. Yet almost a year later they are still making empty promises.”