British Home Secretary Priti Patel is set to speak with French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner after 60 migrants attempted to cross the Channel two weeks ago.
More than 900 people have attempted to cross the Channel in small boats since the beginning of this year, while 5 boats landed off the Kent Coast last Thursday, while French authorities intercepted two more boats carrying 19 adults, 10 children and a baby. It is thought UK Border Forces were also dealing with a variety of other incidents but chose not to provide further information. It has also been reported that over 50 migrants were stopped within 24 hours on Thursday 15th August. It has been reported that most boats intercepted appear to have been carrying Iranian nationals. It has been reported that this may be down to Serbia’s introduction of visa-free access to Iranians last summer but who may now be abusing the system to get to Western Europe.
The calls for better control over migration in the English Channel have been of concern since December when Patel’s predecessor, Sajid Javid, described the increasing number of illegal Channel Crossings as ‘a major incident’. However, it is unclear how Patel may act based on her stance on immigration after taking admiration towards the Australian points-based system and with aims to introduce a skills-based approach here in the UK, as well as her previous voting record on including stricter measures for asylum seekers. Furthermore, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, showed a consistent desire for a points-based system during his leadership campaign stating in his first Commons speech “No-one believes more strongly than me in the benefits of migration to our country. But I am clear that our immigration system must change.”
In addition to Patel’s view on immigration, in a paper written by herself and Iain Duncan Smith last year, both argue that a new immigration policy is needed to support the economic needs of the UK and that keeps numbers at a level that invests in the UK’s public services. However, contrary to what her voting record says, in a Conservative Home written by Patel last year, she states that Britain should always be fair to refugees and that a new immigration system doesn’t mean ‘slamming the door shut’ especially as we approach the end of our EU membership. She further states that a new system would affect the EU and the rest of the world but that the UK should put an end to welcoming those with no job or a low income, which begs the question of how this may affect Iranian migrants. Overall, Patel is adamant on bringing back control to the UK’s borders and providing an immigration policy that is fit-for-purpose in the UK, making reference to immigration being a concern for voters on both sides of the referendum due to David Cameron’s aims to renegotiate immigration with the EU before the referendum.
With Patel’s apparent tough stance, it is still down to question how the Home Secretary will communicate with her counterpart on this issue. The issue of Channel migration has been ongoing since before the beginning of last year and since the beginning of Macron’s term in office. In the past, Macron has been determined that a migrant camp in Calais will never happen again, while also blaming the UK for increased Channel migration. However, it is still not yet clear whether this will play a part in the negotiations.
Furthermore, a Home Office spokeswoman has stated that crossing the Channel in a small boat is a “huge risk” and that “the criminal gangs who perpetuate this are ruthless and do not care about loss of life.