UK warning to France: start picking up migrants or we won’t pay you

The British government has vowed to withhold part of the £54 million it is set to hand over to France if authorities in the Calais area do not get their act together in stopping migrants from crossing the Channel illegally.

Yesterday saw yet another record haul of more than 1000 migrant crossings aboard inflatables – in some cases, noticeably larger than the standard RIBs used by ruthless people smugglers. Images went viral of migrants landing on Kent beaches after being taken aboard RNLI vessels at sea. Footage also emerged of Border Force boats packed with migrants.

Last year’s record-breaking tally of 8,420 looks set to be doubled in the coming days amid a heatwave delivering bumper business for criminals working out of northern France. The total this year now stands at more than 13,500.

The sheer numbers make a mockery of a deal struck with the French in July. In exchange for £54 million, France’s interior ministry agreed to step up patrols with new tech and manpower.

However, the French authorities are doing little more than pocketing the cash. As part of the arrangement, drones and manned aerial surveillance were to be deployed more intensively. However, The Times reports that drones are a no show owing to French privacy laws, and safety concerns are preventing planes from flying at night to spot smugglers at their most active.

The rate of migrant boat interceptions by the French has plummeted as the number of migrant crossings has ramped up. In November last year, following yet another lucrative deal, the French were picking up around three in four boats, now it’s less than two in four, say the Home Office.

“The interception rate has to get to a certain point to act as a deterrent,” said a source.

French lack of action reflects dreadfully on British counterparts who arranged the deal, meanwhile UK patrols continue to provide a taxi service for migrant boats. Yesterday, the migrant flotilla was so large it left Border Force and the RNLI “overwhelmed” with many migrants making it to Kent undetected by the authorities, but spotted by members of the public.

Under fire home secretary Priti Patel is looking to respond and has told her opposite number in Paris the cash is “conditional”.

Patel said: “We’ve not given them a penny of the money so far and France is going to have to get its act together if it wants to see the cash. It’s payment by results and we’ve not yet seen those results. The money is conditional.”

The matter will be addressed at an upcoming G7 meeting. Patel, whose credentials as a right-wing hardliner have evaporated over the course of the year as migrants have continued to flood into the country, is believed to want a PR victory ahead of the Tory Party conference next month.

Dan O’Mahoney, Britain’s clandestine channel threat commander, said: “This unacceptable rise in dangerous crossings is being driven by criminal gangs and a surge in illegal migration across Europe.

“We’re determined to target the criminals at every level, so far, we have secured nearly 300 arrests, 65 convictions and prevented more than 10,000 migrant attempts.

“But there is more to do. The government’s new plan for immigration is the only credible way to fix the broken asylum system, breaking the business model of criminal gangs and welcoming people through safe and legal routes.”