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Priti Patel POLL: Is Home Secretary doing a good job as France ban UK from migrant summit?

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After at least 28 people died whilst attempting to cross the English Channel on Wednesday, the Home Secretary was due to attend a meeting with European interior ministers and the European Commission to discuss migration strategy on Sunday. However, Emmanuel Macron’s government has pulled their invitation to the Home Secretary, in response to a letter written by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

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A source from the French interior ministry told POLITICO: “We find the open letter from the British prime minister unacceptable. Thus, Priti Patel is not invited anymore to the ministers.”

Macron said Johnson’s letter, which the British leader published on Twitter, was not a “serious” way of handling matters.

“I’m surprised when things are not done seriously,” Macron told a press conference in Rome.

Mr Johnson suggested five steps that he felt could reduce the crossings, they were:

  • Joint or reciprocal maritime patrol operations in each other’s territorial waters
  • Deploying more advanced technology including ground sensors and radar
  • Reciprocal airborne surveillance by manned and unmanned aircraft, perhaps flying under joint insignia
  • Deepening the work of our Joint Intelligence Cell with better real time intelligence sharing to deliver arrests and prosecutions on both sides of the Channel
  • Introducing a bilateral readmission agreement to allow all illegal migrants who cross the Channel to be returned

On his last point, he added: “This would have an immediate effect and would significantly reduce – if not stop – the crossings, saving lives by fundamentally breaking the business model of the criminal gangs.”

When Britain left the EU, it was no longer able to use the bloc’s system for returning migrants to the first member state they entered.

A government minister revealed last week that just five people had been returned to Europe after making it to Britain in 2021, compared to 294 people who had crossed in small boats being returned in 2020 – when the Brexit transition period was still in place.

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France has accused Britain of a poorly managed immigration system and said Britain is politicising the migrant issue for domestic gain.

Priti Patel has been leading strategy on immigration as Home Secretary since 2019.

The joint Anglo-French intelligence unit was launched by Priti Patel and Gerald Darmanin in 2020 to tackle the criminals involved in organising dangerous Channel crossings.

At the time, Ms Patel and Mr Darmanin emphasised their “shared commitment to returning boats in the Channel to France, rather than allowing them to reach the UK.”

But the Prime Minister has admitted that these efforts “haven’t been enough”.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Priti Patel said that she is prepared to “do absolutely whatever is necessary to secure the area [French beaches] so that vulnerable people do not risk their lives by getting into unseaworthy boats”.

She added: “These journeys across the Channel are absolutely unnecessary.”

Speaking about her cooperation with France, Ms Patel said: “The United Kingdom has given its unflinching and generous support to France to end this terrible trade in people smuggling.

“We are not working just to end these crossings because we don’t care or we’re heartless, the United Kingdom has a clear and a generous humane approach to asylum seekers and refugees.”

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Her Labour counterpart, Nick Thomas-Symonds, has accused Ms Patel of blaming “everyone but herself” over the migrant crisis.

Speaking in the Commons on Monday, shadow home secretary Mr Thomas-Symonds said: “As the Home Secretary knows, the Government has already spent over £200 million of taxpayers’ money on deals with the French authorities that are not working.

“The situation is getting worse. So will the Government commit to transparency as to how the money is spent?”

He added: “The Home Secretary has repeatedly made pledges that the route across the Channel will be made unviable, but as usual with this Government it is all empty rhetoric and broken promises.”

The Times has reported that Boris Johnson has appointed Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay to help Ms Patel and to review the crisis after becoming ‘exasperated’ at rising crossings.

Mr Thomas-Symonds went on: “Who actually is in charge of immigration policy, is it the Home Secretary or is it the Cabinet Office and isn’t the fact that another Cabinet minister has had to be brought in evidence of the fact that the Home Secretary has lost control of this dangerous situation?”

Since July, Ms Patel has been one of the least satisfactory members of the Cabinet according to the Conservative Home league tables.

She hit her lowest score in September, after the number of people who have crossed the English Channel in small boats this year is now three times the total for the whole of 2020.

More than 25,700 people have made the journey this year, according to data compiled by the Press Association.

Those who attempt the crossing have been noted to come from a range of countries, including Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kuwait, Turkey, Palestine, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Yemen, Guinea, Mali, Chad, Somalia, Niger, Libya and Albania.

Nearly all of the migrants (98 percent between January and September 2020) claim asylum.

This process can take a long time to complete, with some waiting months or years for a decision.

Figures show the UK continues to see fewer boat arrivals and asylum claims than many other nations on the continent.

Data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees shows that at least 105,135 people have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean so far this year.

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