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09th Sep 2021

Migrant boats in the Channel can be turned back in new move approved by Priti Patel

Charlie Herbert

Priti Patel wants to be able to turn back boats crossing the channel

There are questions over whether this would break international maritime laws

Priti Patel wants the UK Border Force to have the power to turn back boats carrying migrants across the English Channel.

But there are questions over whether this would comply with international maritime law, which states that people at risk of losing their lives at sea must be rescued. France has warned that the proposals will endanger lives.

The proposals have already been rejected by the French government.

The Home Secretary met with French interior minister Gérald Darmanin on Wednesday for talks about the issue of migration, but the two sides failed to reach any new measures.

In a tweet, Patel said: “Today I held constructive talks with French Interior Minister @GDarmanin on tackling illegal migration across the Channel. I made clear that delivering results and stopping crossings were an absolute priority for the British people.”

But in a letter released on Wednesday before the talks, Darmanin said that he could not accept the proposal on the grounds that “safeguarding human lives at sea takes priority over considerations of nationality, status and migratory policy.” He added that the UK employing such tactics “would risk having a negative impact on our cooperation”.

A British government source told the BBC the tactics would only happen in “very certain, narrow circumstances.” They added that although the government is agreed on the potential idea, the operational details are still to be finalised.

This week, more than 1,500 migrants have crossed the Channel by boat, and the UK government has said it needs to use every possible tactic to tackle people smuggling.

While the French government acknowledges that there has been an increase in the number of people making the crossing, they say this is down to people smugglers using larger boats and other tactics such as decoy boats.

More than 12,600 migrants have made the journey across the English Channel so far this year.

Human rights charity Amnesty International UK has said people have the right to seek asylum in the country, saying that people “only make dangerous journeys and rely on smugglers because there are no safe alternatives made available to them”.

The Home Office said it continues to evaluate and test a range of safe and legal options to find ways of stopping small boats making the journey.

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