France is REFUSING to stop cross-channel migrant boats once they are in the water heading for Britain, admits minister, despite receiving MILLIONS from UK taxpayers to block life-threatening journeys

  • Chris Philp admitted that a £28million deal would only fund dry land operations
  • Told MPs French ‘operational posture’ was to not stop migrant boats in the water 
  • This is despite such interceptions being legal under international law 

French authorities are refusing to intercept migrant boats heading for Britain once they are in the English Channel, despite receiving millions of pounds of UK taxpayers cash to cut off the route, a minister admitted today.

Chris Philp admitted that a £28million deal signed with Paris at the weekend would not affect migrants who manage to get their often ramshackle vessels into the water because of the French ‘operational posture’.

Home Secretary Priti Patel signed an agreement with France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Saturday to double the number of officers patrolling beaches on the Channel coast.

They pledged to make the route ‘completely unviable’ for people smuggling gangs.

But facing the Home Affairs Committee this morning, Immigration Compliance Minister Mr Philp admitted that it once migrants were on the water they could not currently be stopped heading for Britain.

Tory MP Tim Loughton asked: ‘Is it not the case that no agreement still has been reached with the French government about the French government proactively turning back the boats, intercepting them, once they get into the water, and without that we will still continue to see a flow of people taking their chances at the hands of people smugglers coming across the channel in those small boats in whatever numbers?’

Mr Philp replied: ‘That is currently correct. The French operational posture on the water is that they don’t forcibly intercept migrant boats. 

‘They will rescue them if they start sinking and if migrants request assistance. But they do not currently forcibly intercept migrant boats while in French waters.’

Chris Philp admitted that a £28million deal signed with Paris at the weekend would not affect migrants who manage to get their often ramshackle vessels into the water because of the French ‘operational posture’.


Immigration Compliance Minister Mr Philp (left)  admitted that it once migrants were on the water they could not currently be stopped heading for Britain, under questioning from MP Tim Loughton (right)

Mr Loughton said that interceptions were legal under international law, asking why the UK had not pursued legal action.

Mr Phil replied: ‘Certainly some jurisdictions would allow interception because illegal activity or potential illegal activity is taking place as well. Our view is that there is a lawful basis for that kind of activity.’

 He added that the French had ‘stepped up enormously in the last few months’ with activity on land, with 90 per cent of crossings intercepted last week.   

Ms Patel has faced criticism for the Government’s failure to tackle a wave of migrants in small boats crossing from northern France. So far this year more than 8,500 migrants have landed in Britain, up from 1,850 in 2019.

The French agreement, signed after discussions began in the summer, will also mean an ‘enhanced package’ of drones, radar equipment and fixed cameras to detect migrants attempting crossings.

The upgraded protection started yesterday. It will see French police patrolling almost 100 miles of coastline which is regularly targeted by people smuggling networks. 

The agreement also includes steps to support migrants into accommodation in France, and measures to increase border security at ports in the north and west of the country.

Home Secretary Priti Patel signed an agreement with France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Saturday to double the number of officers patrolling beaches on the Channel coast

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, by Border Force following a small boat incident in the Channel on Monday, October 19

However, the Home Office did not say how many more officers would be deployed.

It builds on measures previously agreed which the Home Office said had seen the proportion of crossings intercepted and stopped rise from 41 per cent last year to 60 per cent in recent weeks.

 In recent weeks, Home Office sources said, French patrols have stopped 60 per cent of crossings, up from 40 per cent in 2019.

Despite deteriorating weather conditions, the UK’s Border Force has continued to deal with migrants making the dangerous trip from northern France.

This year Immigration Enforcement have convicted 57 individuals for people smuggling, including those convicted of facilitating small boats Channel crossings, resulting in sentencing of over 138 years. 

A further 46 people were convicted of offences related to the small boat crossings. 

The total sentencing for small boats related convictions is more than 26 years. 

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