Britain has started returning illegal immigrants who tried to enter via small boats across the English Channel back to France and Germany — after British official pressed on France in particular to do more to stop the surge in crossings.
The Times of London reports that a special charter flight took 14 migrants to the two countries after the U.K. government found they had already claimed asylum in one of two countries before after they checked their fingerprints against European Union databases.
While it’s only a small portion of the hundreds of migrants that have landed on British shores in recent weeks from northern France, a government source told the Times it was “the tip of the iceberg.”
“It shows that we are getting these people out,” a source told the Times. “It sends a message to the people trying to cross the Channel and to the people smugglers that we are getting people out of the country.”
The Times reports that requests have been made for a further 577 who have arrived this year and had claimed asylum previously before traveling to Britain, which means they can be returned under the E.U.’s Dublin Regulation — which says asylum claims should be dealt with by the first safe E.U. country the migrant encounters.
The move comes a day after Immigration Minister Chris Philp said that the U.K. and France had “reaffirmed our unshakeable shared commitment” to making sure the route across the channel was “unviable” after hundreds of migrants have surged to the British coast in recent weeks.
A Border Force vessel assist a group of people thought to be migrants on board from their inflatable dinghy in the Channel, Monday Aug. 10, 2020.(Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)
“It is facilitated by ruthless criminal gangs, it puts lives at risk and it is totally unnecessary,” he told Sky News after meeting with French officials in Paris.
“We have worked on a joint operational plan, a revised and new operational plan, with the objective in mind of completely cutting this route and we’re going to be working at pace in the coming days to make that plan a reality,” he said.
Philp said over 1,000 migrants had been detained by the French government this year, but that the numbers still getting through was “unacceptable” to both governments. He noted that the Dublin Regulation made it harder for the U.K. to return migrants and that Britain is set to be free of that regulation in 2021 when it fully leaves the bloc.