Row as French diplomat claims Rishi Sunak is deluded over stopping all boats

Six dead and more than 50 rescued after boat carrying migrants sinks in Channel

A former French ambassador, Sylvie Bermann, has criticised the UK’s promise to stop migrants crossing the English Channel as “totally delusionary.” She pointed out that French authorities are intercepting fewer migrants this year compared to the past.

Bermann, who was envoy to the UK from 2014 to 2017, said it’s hard to control the 90-mile coastline used by human traffickers. She blamed the lack of safe routes for seeking asylum in the UK and the better job prospects there.

Despite a £480 million deal to improve patrols, French police have caught fewer migrants this year. Figures from the Hauts-de-France region show that 13,759 migrants were stopped between January and mid-August, down from 17,032 last year.

So far this year, more than 17,000 migrants have made the crossing, a decrease from last year’s 20,000.

READ MORE: France stops less than half of Channel migrants despite £480m from UK

Bermann told Today on BBC Radio 4: “We have 150km of coast. It’s very difficult to prevent everyone from going to the UK, in particular if some are desperate to go there and also because you have smugglers. To expect that no one will cross the Channel is totally delusionary.”

Until June, the French interception rate was higher than last year, but it has now stabilized. Lucy Moreton from the Immigration Services Union noted that more patrols have led to migrants and smugglers using riskier tactics, making it harder to intercept them.

The £480 million deal hasn’t significantly changed the interception rate, highlighting the ongoing challenge.

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She told Today: “You can prove anything with statistics of course, but the French stop what they can.

“They certainly have been a little bit more effective this year, because that’s led to the bunching of the boats, which caused the deaths last week. Everybody sets off at once on the basis that they can only stop some of them, not all of them.”

She also agreed that Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats” would not be met. She said: “I doubt it’s ever possible to stop 100 per cent of the boats. It’s a large and open section of coastline.”

Bermann echoed: “If you don’t have legal processing, or if it doesn’t work, people will try anyway to cross the Channel illegally. Also it’s easier to find a job in the UK than other countries. Those people are speaking English. That’s why they’re desperate to go to the UK.”

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