Friday, 1 Mar 2024

Ex-Border Force boss ‘optimistic’ UK can ‘stem’ small boats but slams the French

An ex-Border Force boss has said he is “optimistic” about Britain’s efforts to “stem the flow” of illegal Channel crossings but hit out at France for its poor efforts to tackle the migrant crisis. 

Tony Smith joined Nigel Farage on GB News tonight in attacking the French for its strategy of non-intervention on the water, just days after the British asylum backlog hit a record high.

Despite the total number of asylum seeker applications in the year up to June being 78,000, Mr Smith noted that the number of small boats making the dangerous channel crossing has dropped slightly, according to Government statistics.

He said: “We’re not seeing this huge escalation that some commentators were suggesting we would’ve had by this time, so I’m still optimistic that we’re doing something to stem the flow at least.”

Recent figures suggest the total number of small boat crossings in 2023 has dropped by more than 10 per cent compared to the same period last year.

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Mr Smith doubted whether “it was ever realistic” that Britain would be able to achieve the Government’s pledge to Stop the Boats. 

He said one of the reasons for this is that the UK can’t force the French to do more to tackle the crisis.

Mr Smith said: “I would like to stand up for some of the work we have been trying to do with the French.

“But as you know, what we can do in France on the French beaches is severely limited by our capacity to intervene because we can’t control, ultimately, what the French or EU decide to do on their border.”

Once a small boat leaves the beach, French Coastguards will not intervene unless the dinghy is in distress and the migrants are likely to co-operate.

They will, instead, escort the small boats to within 12 miles of the British coast where the UK border force can then intervene.

Mr Smith added: “Their argument has always been that well because migrants don’t really want to be rescued by us and if we go sailing in there and trying to pull them on board then we could make things worse. So that’s been the argument that they’ve got away with.”

The ex-Border force chief called on Brussels to entertain a conversation about joint border patrols between Britain and EU partners to stop illegal migration more effectively.

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