Priti Patel has launched a major push for controversial new powers designed to tackle the Channel migrant crisis, the Daily Mail can reveal.
If this proves impossible under current law, she is said to be drawing up plans for specific new legislation allowing UK patrol boats to turn back the vessels.
A major tightening of asylum law is also on the drawing board, which will force claimants to lodge all their arguments at the beginning of a case.
The Home Secretary Priti Patel (pictured) has told Border Force chiefs to examine whether they have the legal authority to turn migrant boats around in the Channel – and send them back to France
This would stop them making a series of claims in the courts under different parts of human rights laws to delay their deportation. Both measures are likely to be highly contentious.
The UK Border Force is already looking at what powers it has to ‘turn people around in the Channel without any legislative changes’, a source said. At present, the border patrol cutters are only allowed to intervene when they see a migrant vessel in danger.
If new laws are required to turn back vessels at sea, the way it will work will inevitably be tied into the UK’s final Brexit negotiations with the European Union.
On the planned asylum reforms, a source added: ‘The Government wants to get into the position where asylum claimants cannot continually change their story and keep appealing. This is very detrimental for genuine asylum seekers who need the help of this country.
A major tightening of asylum law is also on the drawing board, which will force claimants to lodge all their arguments at the beginning of a case. Pictured: A border force vessel approaches a small boat carrying 25 migrants in the English Channel
‘The current legislation does not work. It’s not fit for purpose.’
Ministers are understood to believe they will win public support for plans which require all reasons for an asylum claim to be made at the beginning of a case.
The maritime measures being pursued by the Home Office are thought to be conditional on securing the support of the French. Mrs Patel has already raised the issue with her Paris counterpart Christophe Castaner.
The Home Office is also understood to be looking at simplifying and streamlining the schemes which govern how asylum seekers are housed across the country.
Currently, some of the schemes involve local authorities volunteering to accept asylum seekers – such as the project for unaccompanied children who have claimed refugee status. Kent County Council leader Roger Gough has called for that scheme to be made compulsory after the number of lone children being cared for by his organisation soared.
French Naval boat seen escorting migrants into British waters unchallenged as figures show 1,600 migrants have crossed the English Channel so far this year
This is the moment a French naval boat escorted migrants into British waters unchallenged.
The Mail witnessed the dawn operation yesterday from a fishing boat 12 miles from Dover on the French-British sea border.
Once the French vessel escorted the 13 migrants to British waters just before 6.30am, Border Force and RNLI boats picked them up and took them to Dover for processing.
Nine men, three woman and a minor were crammed onto the rigid inflatable boat, which came close to sinking.
A border force vessel approaches a small boat carrying 25 migrants in the English Channel as it is handed over by the French authorities to the English Border Force
Once in British waters, one man posed for a selfie with the white cliffs of Dover in the background. Several were carrying phones, as migrants often dial 999 once in UK waters.
The boat was powered by a 25hp Yamaha motor. Insiders said boats being offered by smugglers were becoming more powerful and less ramshackle, although they vary based on the fees of between 1,000 euros (£890) and 3,000 euros (£2,670) per person.
About 65 migrants arrived on six vessels by 10am yesterday after mainly setting off from Gravelines, 16 miles east of Calais. One boat was carrying up to 29 people, while one man even arrived by kayak.
The people smugglers are thought to be exploiting that fact that French boats are mainly patrolling between Boulogne and Calais, opening up the route from Gravelines. With fewer ships crossing due to the slowdown caused by Covid-19, the route is also less tricky to navigate.
It comes amid a surge in crossings, with more than 1,600 migrants reaching the UK already this year. Only about 6 per cent have been returned to France.
Last year, 1,890 made it across.