Eustice grilled on 'irony' of French letting migrants cross channel

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Alp Mehmet, a former British ambassador and immigration officer, criticised Home Secretary Priti Patel for not getting a grip of the issue, saying they have succeeded only in making matters worse. His criticism came in response to the news that the number of migrants crossing the Channel last month was almost six times higher than in October 2020.

Mr Mehmet told Express.co.uk that members of the public are not blind to the failures of their leaders.

“The British people look on in utter disbelief as one Home Secretary after another (the current one being no exception) fails to get a grip of an ever worsening situation,” he said.

“The Government have totally failed in the Channel and their timid policies have made a bad situation worse.”

2,669 migrants are reported to have made the journey last month, compared to 475 last October.

But the problem, as Mr Mehmet points out, is not a new one, just as Priti Patel is not the first Home Secretary to face criticism for talking tough but doing little in the way of action.

Recent increases in the number of migrants crossing the Channel into Britain come in spite of a long period of uninterrupted Tory rule.

Each of the party’s election manifestos over the past decade have made reference to taking control of immigration.

READ MORE: Number of migrants crossing Channel SIX times higher year-on-year

The campaign to leave the European Union, led in part by influential Tory politicians, including the now-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is also understood to have gained large backing because of its “take back control” message.

But in the years since the 2016 vote, the number of Channel crossings has gone up and up.

There were 8,420 arrivals in the whole of 2020.

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This figure could rise almost threefold to 22,000 in 2021, according to the Times.

Mr Mehmet argues that increasing numbers have not led to increased action in the Government.

“As illegal arrivals have shot up, the proportion of arrests has gone the other way, with zero returns of those who have come through, and set off from, safe countries to get to the UK,” he said.

Ministers hope that the Nationalities and Borders Bill, which is expected to pass through the House of Lords later this year, will help to resolve this problem.

It will see the written prison sentence for those crossing the Channel increased to four years and will allow courts to impose a maximum life sentence on smugglers.

Ms Patel is also working to grant Border Force officers immunity from criminal prosecution if migrants found on small boats in the Channel die after being ordered to “turn back”.

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