Priti Patel Is Under Fire For Her Channel Policies After 27 Died Travelling To The UK

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Priti Patel extended her sympathies to the families of those who died in the English Channel on Wednesday (Photo: Steve Parsons - PA Images via Getty Images)
Priti Patel extended her sympathies to the families of those who died in the English Channel on Wednesday (Photo: Steve Parsons - PA Images via Getty Images)

Priti Patel has been called out for her radical policies after extending her sympathies to the bereaved families of those who died in the English Channel on Wednesday.

After 27 people died while trying to seek asylum in the UK, she tweeted: “My thoughts are with the families of all of those who have tragically lost their lives in French waters today.

“It serves as the starkest possible reminder of the dangers of these Channel crossings organised by ruthless criminal gangs.”

Patel has made it clear over her two years as home secretary that reducing the flow of people arriving into the UK via the English Channel is one of her top priorities.

She has even criticised her own department for not being “fit for purpose” when it comes to preventing the dangerous Channel crossings, even though the Tories have been in power since 2007.

She has also gone head to head with France in recent months after promising to pay the French border authorities £54 million during 2021 and 2022 to increase its police patrols, increase aerial surveillance and security infrastructure at ports.

As this has not stemmed the flow of people arriving to UK shores, Patel has tried to introduce extra measures on the UK side of the Channel.

While Wednesday’s incident happened far from British waters, Patel’s critics have now revived some of these more outlandish ideas from the home office after the tragedy.

Author James Felton hit out at Patel by retweeting her sympathetic tweet about the migrant deaths alongside newspaper articles which revealed the home secretary’s reported proposals to tackle the crisis – although the vast majority of these supposed suggestions have not been used.

He added the caption: “This you, this you, this you, this you?”

One headline he shared from The Guardian reads “Home Office may use nets to stop migrant boats crossing Channel”. Written back in October 2020, it explains: “Nets could be used to clog propellers and halt boats.”

The leaked proposals – most of which were understood to be rejected by the government – also included moving migrants to the remote UK territory in the South Atlantic called Ascension Island, 4000 miles from Britain.

Another suggestion included processing migrants on disused ferries, moored off the coast, or installing “floating walls” through temporary “marine fencing” which would physically stop boats crossing.

Using a wave machine in the Channel was reportedly considered at one point.

Felton also posted a headline from The Metro with a headline last month about the most controversial policy considered by the home office – turning small boats arriving in UK waters around.

It read: “Priti Patel wants to give immunity to Border Force over refugee deaths.”

This was reportedly so Border Force staff who introduce the new “push back” clause would not be prosecuted if any refugees died in the process.

Patel has faced many legal challenges over these pushback policies, and it remains unclear if the government has actually implemented this proposal – used only in UK waters – yet.

Still, her Nationality and Borders Bill, which aims to crack down on people arriving illegally into the UK, is not winning any of her critics over, especially after the recent fatalities.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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