Published: 17:13, 11 October 2021
| Updated: 21:07, 11 October 2021
The government says that £54 million promised to France to help prevent asylum seekers in small boats crossing the Channel will be paid “in the coming weeks”.
Home Office Minister Damian Hinds said the delay in payment was the result of an “administrative process” which had taken time to work through.
His comments come after a French minister said “not one Euro has been paid”.
The spat between the two governments is happening as the figure of successful crossings to the UK in small craft in 2021 reached more than 18,000.
And in the last three days, from Friday to Sunday, nearly 1,500 did so.
Asked by BBC News today when the cash would be given to the French, Mr Hinds said: “Absolutely we are working closely with the French and I expect that question that you have raised to be finalised in the coming weeks.”
He added that an “administrative process” rather than any “political question” had led to the delay in France receiving the money.
“I would like to see increased activity, increased turnback."
He said: “I didn’t say it was an error, it is a process to be worked through when you are transferring what are very large sums of taxpayers’ money.”
He also said: “I would like to see increased activity, increased turnback (of asylum seekers). France is a safe country. If you are seeking asylum, you should claim it in the first safe country you come to.”
On Saturday, French interior minister Gérald Darmanin said: “For now, not one Euro has been paid.
“We are asking the British to keep their promises of financing because we are holding the border for them.”
During a visit to Dunkirk, he also called on Britain to take measures to reduce its “attractiveness” for asylum seekers without residency papers, without elaborating.
Since the start of the year, more than 18,000 people have succeeded in reaching the UK on board small boats, according to data compiled by the PA news agency.
In the last three days, on both sides of the Channel, there were at least 79 incidents involving 2,404 people.
The Home Office confirmed that on Friday UK authorities had to rescue or intercept 624 people in 23 incidents.
The 624 is the fourth highest daily tally on record during the current crisis.
On Saturday the same was done with 491 people in 17 cases.
And yesterday (Sunday) 364 people were stopped in 11 instances.
This makes the total on the British side of the English Channel in those three days 51 incidents involving a total 1,479 people.
Meanwhile French authorities on Friday intercepted at least seven attempts, preventing 300 people from reaching the UK.
They did the same with 114 people in five incidents on Saturday and yesterday it was 16 incidents involving 511 people.
Their total for the three days adds up to 28 incidents with 925 people.
Small boats has been the favoured method for asylum seeker crossings over the last three years.
Previously the common practice was stowing away in lorries.
Those rescued at sea are usually brought in by Border Force vessels to Dover Western Docks.
The area there where they are initially kept, Tug Haven, was criticised on Friday in a report by official inspectors because of its conditions.
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