Published On: Fri, Feb 2nd, 2024

Fears more migrants will cross Channel after Turkey deal collapses | Politics | News

Migrants will be “emboldened” to make illegal Channel crossings after the collapse of a returns deal with Turkey.

Former immigration minister Robert Jenrick hit out at Home Office officials for ruling the country is not safe because of its human rights record.

The government had hoped a deal similar to the pact with Albania would help curb the small boats crisis.

Mr Jenrick said: “This decision is wrong. Turkey is a safe country. I initiated talks with Turkey to improve returns of illegal migrants and cooperation on organised immigration crime. 

“We are close partners and can make progress on both fronts together.”

Mr Jenrick added: “Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe, a Nato ally and a candidate country for EU accession.

“Similarly cautious advice was overcome to declare India to be a safe country.

“If we don’t do so, illegal migrants will be emboldened and returns stymied.

“In the case of Turkey, most individuals, certainly those coming by small boats, are economic migrants and should be returned swiftly, as we do for Albanians.”

The proportion of Turkish nationals arriving in the UK on small boats jumped from two per cent in 2022 to more than 10 per cent last year.

A Home Office review found that an analysis showed that 99 per cent of Turkish asylum cases to the UK were based on “a fear of the state”.

It was also critical of the country’s “over-zealous” use of anti-terrorism law and the independence of the courts.

Former home secretary Suella Braverman said it was a “very concerning” decision.

She said: “As Home Secretary I worked up proposals to list Turkey as a safe country: a member of the Council of Europe, a Nato ally and a Candidate country for EU accession. “The government should re-think this decision.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “International cooperation plays a crucial part in tackling illegal migration and the UK and Turkey are close strategic partners, with a future-focused relationship. 

“Where an individual has no legal right to be in the UK, we will seek to return them to their home country. Protection claims are considered on their individual merits in accordance with our international obligations – no-one who is found to be at risk of persecution or serious harm will be returned.” More than 1,000 migrants have arrived in the UK so far this year after crossing the Channel.

Downing Street insisted Turkey was a safe country.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We do and can return people to Turkey. There’s been no changes to the arrangements we have between the UK and Turkey.

“We announced a strengthened migration partnership with Turkey last summer.

“Formal return agreements are just one of the many levers we’ve got at our disposal.”

Mr Sunak discussed “ongoing UK-Italy collaboration to tackle criminal people smuggling gangs and deal with illegal migration” in a phone call with Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni on Friday morning.

“The Prime Minister noted the passage of the Italy-Albania agreement, and leaders agreed to continue working closely together to develop innovative partnerships across Europe and with countries along the migration route,” according to Downing Street.

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