Britain’s Border Force is “little more than a taxi service for illegal migrants,” a Conservative MP said on Monday, as he urged the government to take action to put an end to the “horrible trade” of people smuggling.
The Home Office is investigating an incident in which migrants attempting to cross the English Channel were reportedly picked up in French waters by the UK Border Force and taken to the English port of Dover.
The move was orchestrated between senior crew members of UK Border Force ship HMC Valiant and French patrol ship Athos on May 29, the Daily Mail reported.
Asking in the House of Commons what the Home Office is doing to tackle human smuggling, Sir Edward Leigh said: “Does the minister recognise the public anger at us being made fools of with this? Border Force is little more than a taxi service for illegal migrants, it’s ridiculous.
“So will the minister assure me that he will use his powers under the 1971 Immigration Act to arrest all illegal immigrants, put them in detention, prosecute them, imprison them, and deport them so that we can stop this horrible trade dead in its tracks?”
Responding to the question, Home Office minister Chris Philp said that he “completely” shares Sir Edward’s anger.
“We are actively prosecuting the facilitators. And in the forthcoming Sovereign Borders Bill, as part of the new plan for immigration, we plan to significantly strengthen the Section 24 illegal entry offence that he refers to in the 1971 act to make it easier to use and easier to implement in practice.
“And at the same time we are going to be increasing the sentence for illegal entry and the sentence for facilitation under Section 25 of that same act.”
According to the Home Office, the French authorities dealt with eight incidents involving 130 people on June 4, with the UK dealing with four boats involving 83 people.
This follows 201 people being stopped by Border Force officers in eight incidents on June 3.
In addition, the French authorities intercepted nine crossings on June 2 and 3, preventing 171 people from reaching the UK.
This makes a total of 585 attempting to make the crossing in just three days.
On Monday, migrants continued to arrive in Dover after crossing the English Channel.
Kent County Council has threatened legal action against Home Secretary Priti Patel, saying it faces extreme pressure on its services for unaccompanied child migrants.
The dangerous sea journey from France—made by more than 3,000 people including children so far in 2021—has claimed many lives.
Police confirmed on Monday that the body of a baby found on a Norwegian beach is that of a Kurdish-Iranian boy who went missing in the English Channel last year.
Fifteen-month-old Artin was onboard an overcrowded migrant boat heading for the UK with his parents and two siblings when it capsized on Oct. 27, 2020, claiming all five of their lives.
Artin’s family had sold their house before leaving Iran and paid £14,000 ($20,000) to get on to the boat, with a further £8,200 ($11,600) supposed to be due when they arrived safely in the UK.
Patel said at the time that the deaths were “an ultimate tragedy” and one that “could have been avoided.”
PA contributed to this report.