Suella Braverman warns there is no ‘silver bullet’ to solve Channel migrant crisis

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Suella Braverman today warned there would be no quick fix to solve the Channel migrant crisis, after signing a new deal with France designed to stem the flow into Briton.

The Home Secretary said there was no ‘silver bullet’ in the new £63 agreement, which will see UK staff in French control rooms for the first time. 

Writing for TBEN’s sister site Mail+ she said that the flow of people from the continent, which this has reached a record 40,000 this year, is ‘not a problem that can be solved overnight’.

What is in the new Channel migrant deal? 

  • UK’s annual contribution to policing the border is set to rise from around £54million to £63million
  • The number of patrols on French beaches will be boosted by 40 per cent
  • British staff will be embedded in French control rooms for the first time
  • Money will be invested in CCTV, dog detection teams, and equipping officers with drones and night vision capabilities 
  • Stepping up co-operation with a meeting of the ‘Calais Group’ of countries to be scheduled as soon as possible
  • Investment in reception centres in the south of France to deter migrants from moving to the Channel coast 
  • Paris believed to have vetoed the idea of joint UK-French patrols   
  • No target for cutting Channel migrant numbers or detections

It came as Rishi Sunak came under fire from his own MPs after refusing to guarantee small boat numbers will come down despite the new payments.

The PM dodged any firm promises as he hailed ‘progress’, with Ms Braverman sealing a pact that will see a 40 per cent boost in the number of patrols on beaches. 

‘People smuggling gangs are increasingly sophisticated organised crime groups,’ Ms Braverman wrote. 

‘The UK is an undeniably attractive destination. But we must distinguish between legitimate immigration and illegal entry.

‘Every sovereign country has the right to defend its borders and to choose who enters.

‘Contrary to arguments from some quarters, the UK does not have inexhaustible resources, nor an ability to offer an open-ended invitation to illegal immigrants.’

Further measures signed off in Paris include an investment in CCTV and dog detection teams to keep tabs on ports and plans to equip officers with drones and night vision capabilities.

Meanwhile, Britain and France have agreed to step up co-operation on the issue with European partners, with a meeting of the ‘Calais Group’ of neighbouring countries to be scheduled as soon as possible.

Ms Braverman conceded that the deal will not ‘fix the problem’, but insisted it is a ‘big step forward’. 

However, despite the extra cash there will not be joint patrols between French and UK officers after Paris apparently vetoed the idea. And no targets are being set for reducing the flows across the border. 

Tory MP for Dover Natalie Elphicke warned that the action ‘doesn’t match the scale or urgency of the small-boats crisis’. She has been arguing for joint border patrols and a Channel-wide joint security zone. 

Home Secretary Suella Braverman signed a deal with French counterpart Gerald Darmanin today to help tackle the Channel migrant crisis 

Ms Braverman and Mr Darmanin greet each other at the Interior Ministry in Paris today

Ms Braverman and Mr Darmanin greet each other at the Interior Ministry in Paris today

A group of people thought to be migrants arriving at Dungeness in Kent today

A group of people thought to be migrants arriving at Dungeness in Kent today

Rishi Sunak arriving at the G20 summit in Bali today, where he hailed the Channel migrants deal as 'progress'

Rishi Sunak arriving at the G20 summit in Bali today, where he hailed the Channel migrants deal as ‘progress’

Boat deaths smuggler ‘in UK’ 

A gang member allegedly behind the deadliest migrant drownings in the Channel is living in Britain and claiming asylum, a TV documentary will claim tonight. 

The man, of Kurdish descent, is said to have helped migrants find a seat on an inflatable boat which capsized, killing 31 last November. 

The documentary investigated those behind the disaster and spoke to survivor Issa Mohammed who told how he saw ‘bodies floating by’. 

Presenter Handa Majed is seen speaking by phone to a source who said the smuggler has been seen in Birmingham. 

‘He came across the Channel in an inflatable. He changed his name and is claiming asylum,’ the source says. 

The documentary claims the man was put in a hotel in the Midlands and wants to start a business but it was unable to find him.

The Crossing will be broadcast on ITV at 10.45pm tonight.

Campaigners and border experts said the French authorities will keep ‘just letting them go to try again’. Labour accused the government of throwing ‘red meat’ to people alarmed about immigration and said it was ‘too little too late’. 

Speaking in Bali where he is attending the G20 summit, Mr Sunak was grilled on whether he could guarantee numbers will fall next year.

‘I’m confident that we can get the numbers down,’ he replied.

‘But I also want to be honest with people that it isn’t a single thing that will magically solve this. We can’t do it overnight.

‘But people should be absolutely reassured that this is a top priority for me. I’m gripping it and, as I’ve said, in the time that I’ve been Prime Minister, you’re already starting to see some progress with this deal with the French but that’s just a start.

‘There’s lots more that we need to do.’

After signing the agreement in Paris, Ms Braverman admitted it is ‘not a silver bullet’. ‘But I think for the first time we have some real wins for both the French and the UK,’ she added. 

The UK hopes that if Channel migrant boat detection levels can be lifted to 75 per cent it will break the business model of the people smugglers. However, if anything the level is thought to have been falling.   

Dozens more migrants have reportedly arrived in Kent today after making the perilous crossing. 

More than 1,800 reached the UK over the weekend, the first to successfully cross this month amid bad weather.

Government figures show 972 people arrived in 22 boats on Saturday, followed by 853 people in 26 boats yesterday, taking the provisional total for the year so far to 41,729. Total crossings last year were 28,526.

It comes as the government examines options to find less expensive accommodation for Channel migrants which could see them housed in disused holiday parks.

Old student accommodation buildings and budget cruise ships were also named as possible alternatives by immigration minister Robert Jenrick to cut the Government’s huge hotel bill. 

Ms Braverman signed the deal with French interior minister Gerald Darmanin in Paris this morning.

The UK’s annual contribution to policing the border is set to rise from around £54million to the equivalent of just above £63million.

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A Home Office policy paper detailing the agreement said the ‘activity will begin with immediate effect’, with the rise in French officers on beach patrols taking place ‘in the next five months’. 

A new taskforce will also be established to address the ‘recent rise in Albanians and organised crime groups exploiting illegal migration routes’ into Western Europe.

Elsewhere, joint UK-France analysis teams will seek to boost information sharing.

The deal pledges investment in French reception and removal centres for migrants who are prevented from making the crossing to the UK.

Downing Street said the 40 per cent increase in the number of patrols of beaches in northern France would ‘increase early detection’, while the presence of UK staff in French control rooms would boost understanding of the ‘threat’ at hand and help inform deployments.

The boost in port surveillance is designed to crack down on migrants attempting to enter the UK on lorries.

In the Commons, Ms Braverman said more than 30,000 crossing attempts have been stopped by the French this year.

But she conceded that the deal in itself will not ‘fix the problem’. 

‘Joint working has also resulted in the dismantling of 55 organised crime groups and secured over 500 arrests since its inception in 2020,’ she said.

Ms Elphicke told her: ‘Regrettably, the modest French agreement falls short of what is needed to address the scale, the impact and the urgency of the Channel crossings.

‘We don’t need more observation, we need action taken on the French side, for even today, as the ink was drying on this new deal, small boats crept through the sea mist and one even landed on a beach in a residential coastal village in my constituency.’

Ms Elphicke asked the Home Secretary to meet her and Kent leaders to discuss the ‘very dreadful impact on local services’, adding they have been described as ‘at breaking point’.

Ms Braverman replied: ‘I’m not going to overplay this agreement. It’s a very important step forward, I think it provides a very good platform from which deeper collaboration can be secured.’

She went on to reiterate the joint working, adding: ‘Is it going to solve the problem on its own? It won’t, but I do encourage everybody to support the deal we have secured.’

Britain has paid some £175million to France to police the Channel border since 2018.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly declined to specify a target on how much a new deal with France on migrants could cut crossing numbers.

He told TBEN Breakfast: ‘We want to bring the numbers down significantly. That is the whole point of these arrangements.

Defending the scale of spending to tackle the issue, he said: ‘The whole point is that we are trying to spend less money than we are currently having to spend housing migrants.’

The two ministers signed the deal before exchanging copies today

The two ministers signed the deal before exchanging copies today

‘Whilst the numbers are unprecedented it is important to recognise that this arrangement has had a positive effect. Not at the kind of levels that we would want, which is why we have updated this agreement with France.’

He insisted that the Government is ‘working at every point in this chain’.

Lucy Moreton, professional officer for the Union for Borders, Immigration and Customs (ISU), said the Government’s deal with France to reduce Channel crossings does not address the ‘sticking points’ keeping numbers high.

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Ms Moreton told Times Radio that interrupting migrants to ‘just let them go to try again’ would not have the required impact and nothing in the deal suggested that ‘the French are going to move away from that position’.

She said: ‘The sticking points just simply have not been addressed.’

The ISU professional officer added that intercepting migrants so they do not try to get to the UK again was not something the French ‘have ever wanted to do’, as from the French perspective ‘they are going the right way and it’s entirely understandable that they are not very keen to interrupt that’.

Ms Moreton said the UK needed to deal with the issue itself by resourcing ‘the court system far better than it has been’ in order to process claims in a shorter space of time.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan accused ministers of ‘throwing red meat’ to people concerned about migration.

Mr Khan told Times Radio: ‘My concern is what the Government’s doing today is sort of throwing some red meat to people who are concerned about migration and not addressing the core issue we’ve had over the last 11 months, 40,000 people crossing the Channel in little boats.

‘So this tough rhetoric clearly isn’t working by itself.

‘You’ve got to have close relations with France, colleagues in the European Union, with countries in North Africa, you’ve got to deal at source with those people who are, playing on the misery of asylum seekers and refugees in relation to charging them a fortune.’

Rishi Sunak told journalists travelling with him to Indonesia for the G20 summit that he was 'pleased' to be signing the deal with France

Rishi Sunak told journalists travelling with him to Indonesia for the G20 summit that he was ‘pleased’ to be signing the deal with France

Mr Jenrick has vowed to put a stop to ‘Hotel Britain’ which has seen taxpayers fork out £6.8million a day to put migrants in ‘unsuitable’ accommodation. 

‘Hotel Britain must end, and be replaced with simple, functional accommodation that does not create an additional pull factor,’ Mr Jenrick wrote in The Sunday Telegraph. 

He added: ‘Accommodating these record numbers is extremely challenging, and a chronic shortage of acceptable accommodation has forced the Government to procure expensive, and frequently unsuitable, hotels at an unacceptable cost to the taxpayer.

‘Human decency has to be accompanied by hard-headed common sense: illegal immigrants are not entitled to luxury hotels.’

The Government’s crackdown came after the provisional total number of migrants who arrived in Britain on small boats this year hit 40,885 – with more expected yesterday.

Thousands have now been waiting for over a year for their asylum applications to be processed. Shockingly, 725 people, including 155 children, have been waiting for more than five years, the Refugee Council charity said.

A Home Office spokesman said the system was under ‘incredible pressure’, adding: ‘We are doing everything we can to address this issue. We have increased the number of caseworkers by 80 per cent to more than 1,000, and a successful pilot scheme has seen the average number of asylum claims processed by caseworkers double. We are now rolling this out across the country.’

The spokesman also said applications from children were being prioritised ‘where possible’.