Migrant channel crossings: UK forces can patrol beaches abroad if countries struggling, MP says

French police officers patrol the beaches in Wimereux near Calais as migrants continue to launch small boats along the coastline in a bid to cross the Channel towards the UK. Picture date: Thursday November 18, 2021.
French police officers patrol the beaches in Wimereux near Calais as small boats are launched. Credit: PA

A Kent MP says British troops can be sent to patrol beaches abroad if other countries are 'struggling' to stem the flow of migrant boats, following a crossing tragedy.

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay said UK authorities should travel "if necessary" to assist with patrolling beaches after 27 people died while trying to reach the UK.

A pregnant woman and a child were among the lives lost after their inflatable boat ran into difficulty while trying to make the crossing on the treacherous shipping route.

Mr Mackinlay told ITV Meridian: "If countries are struggling with the numbers that are required to patrol beaches - have some of ours. We are willing and able to give you police, Border Force and troops, if necessary, to assist."

His comments come after Boris Johnson urged France to agree to jointly patrol the English Channel.

  • Craig Mackinlay, MP for South Thanet

The Prime Minister spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday evening where it was agreed to “keep all options on the table” in their efforts to break up the human trafficking gangs responsible for exploiting migrants, Downing Street said.

Speaking on Thursday, Mr McKinlay added: "What was very interesting was that the Home Secretary came back on Monday to say she'd made that open and very generous offer to the French.

"We need to make this route unviable as I do not want any more people attempting this unbelievably dangerous route which gets worse during the winter period."

Children and a pregnant woman were among those who died while trying to cross the English Channel on Wednesday, French officials have confirmed in their latest toll update.

Seventeen men, seven women, and two boys and a girl thought to be teenagers died after the inflatable boat they were travelling on got into difficulty.

Just two people survived the tragedy.

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin, who confirmed the deaths, said five suspected people smugglers had been arrested in connection with the tragedy after Mr Macron warned “France will not allow the Channel to become a cemetery".

Labour's Jo Stevens, said the "loss of life in the most terrible of circumstances" should be a "wake up call" to the UK Government, the French authorities, and to the international community.

  • Jo Stevens, Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport:

She told ITV Meridian: "We need to do something about the crossings, the criminal traffickers who are taking vulnerable people across the most dangerous Channel in the world."

More people have been brought ashore on Thursday after making the perilous journey across the Channel.

A group wearing life jackets and wrapped in blankets were seen huddled together on board an RNLI lifeboat before disembarking in Dover on Thursday morning.

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent on Thursday morning Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/PA Images

Immigration minister Kevin Foster told ITV News the French and British governments were focusing on "breaking the business model" of the "ruthless" people traffickers who attempt to bring vulnerable migrants to the UK.

Mr Foster said cooperation between the two nations needed to go "further", suggesting future talks will focus on allowing British forces to operate in French territories and vice versa.

He said a "returns agreement" with France and the EU is still on offer after it was rejected in Brexit negotiations - the policy would see failed asylum seekers returned to the first safe country they arrived in after fleeing their own.

  • Kevin Foster, Home Office Minister:

He added: "These ruthless criminals don't care what happens once someone has set off as long as they get paid.

"We all agree we need a different solution, we need to do more, we want to do more, but this isn't just a British solution or a French problem, we need to work together to come to solutions that permanently break the business model of these trafficking gangs.

"We are looking to make further changes to our asylum rules, because we accept there is a need for change and we're doing that via the Nationalities and Borders Bill.

"We're keen to get that through Parliament as quickly as we can. It would certainly help if we had the support rather than the opposition of the main opposition parties to do so."