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UK and France battle over migrant plans

AFP

clock 2 min read

A Border Force patrol vessel leaves the Port of Dover, in England, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019
(Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)A Border Force patrol vessel leaves the Port of Dover, in England, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday emphasized a need to halt the 'vile trade' of migrant smuggling

Britain and France locked horns on Thursday over reported plans by London to turn back boats carrying migrants across the Channel, triggering alarm and anger in Paris.

At least 14,100 people have now crossed the Channel to the UK on small boats this year, according to Britain's domestic Press Association news agency -- some 6,000 more than for the whole of 2020.

The growing number of boats is proving increasingly embarrassing for Home Secretary Priti Patel, who has carved out a reputation for being tough on immigration.

But several newspapers said she has now sanctioned the use of "pushback" tactics to turn back the small boats before they reach Britain.

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Patel has also reportedly threatened to withhold $75 million in funding pledged to Paris to help tackle the issue.

However, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Thursday that France would not accept Britain violating international maritime law.

France has a policy of not intercepting or turning back migrant boats, and instead escorts them to British waters.

That has stoked anger in Brexit-supporting groups and the government in London, who accuse France of shirking its responsibilities.

Downing Street insisted that Britain "won't break maritime law" with the new plans.

Britain's reported new strategy has been trialed for months, the Daily Telegraph said.

However, Border Force officials have told ministers the tactic could only be used in certain circumstances and was not a "silver bullet.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday told parliament that Britain must use every possible tactic to halt the "vile trade" of traffickers bringing migrants across the Channel.