CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

HOME OFFICE – ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION BY SEA [51517] – 21 May 2020

Dr Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what (a) instructions and (b) procedures respectively have been (i) issued to UK Border Force vessels, and (ii) agreed between the UK Border Force and the French authorities, for the safe handover of overloaded inflatables containing illegal immigrants by French escorting vessels to British vessels once they enter UK territorial waters; and whether any representations have been made to the French Government that such journeys should be impeded while still within French territorial waters.  [51517]

[Due for Answer on 4 June.]

ANSWER

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Chris Philp): Border Force vessels covering the South East Channel are usually tasked to identified migrant events by the Coastguard, with the priority being search and rescue and the safety of life. BF work closely with the Coastguard and French Authorities to ensure we provide an effective response to migrant events at sea. Migrants undertaking these dangerous journeys in unsuitable and overloaded small boats are putting the lives of themselves and others at considerable risk and the priority at sea for all assets deployed is safety.

At sea, under international law, the preservation of life is paramount. In some cases, French boats will remain with migrants if they refuse rescue. But we are clear no-one should be crossing at all and we are developing plans to reform policies and laws to help to stop these crossings completely.