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Priti Patel has said migrants crossing the English Channel should be “intercepted at sea” and returned to France.
The home secretary said she wants the UK and France to come to an agreement allowing patrol boats from either country to intercept boats carrying migrants even when they are “just 250 yards” from the French coast.
The number of migrants who have managed to cross the Channel to the UK in 2020 is above 2,500, according to analysis by the PA news agency.
At least 180 migrants were able to cross the Channel on Sunday, a new single-day record. A further 32 people crossed to the UK on Monday.
Speaking to MPs at the House of Commons home affairs committee on Wednesday, Patel said: “Too many people are still making crossings and leaving France, or trying to leave France, and they get over here.
“We are fundamentally looking at ways of changing working with France.
“I’ve had some very, very difficult discussions with my French counterpart, even looking at interceptions at sea, because currently the French authorities are not intercepting boats at sea.
“By that I mean even boats that have left that are just 250 yards or so away from the French coast.
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“I feel there could be stronger enforcement measures on the French side, and they’ve heard that from me.”
Patel said France doesn’t currently intercept boats at sea because of its interpretation of maritime law.
The home secretary, however, insisted France “can go ahead and do that” legally.
She added: “We’ve got to try and break this route. And to break this route, in my view, we have to intercept boats at sea and return them to France.”