Priti Patel has risked a fresh row with France after reportedly telling MPs that migrants are crossing the Channel because they believe it is a “racist country” where they are unsafe.
The home secretary made the comments in a conference call with Conservative MPs concerned about an increase in small boat crossings.
More than 1,000 men, women and children have reached the UK coast by sea in 10 days, according to analysis by the Press Association.
It takes the total for 2020 to at least 4,500 – more than double the number thought to have crossed in the whole of 2019.
One MP on the call told The Sun on Sunday: “Priti was asked why the migrants are so desperate to leave France and come here. She told us some believe racism to be an issue.
“They claim they feel discriminated against when, for example, looking for work in France. Others claimed they feared being tortured if they stayed in France or Germany.
“Priti stressed that she didn’t believe any of this to be true. She was merely trying to explain the pull factors.”
Official reports have cited “dire” conditions in migrant camps along the French coast as a driving factor for those attempting boat crossings, and authorities have conducted a series of forced evictions.
There have been complaints of brutality, harassment and intimidation by police in northern France, against both migrants and people supporting them.
White nationalist groups, including the French branch of Generation Identity, have targeted migrants around Calais and Dunkirk in the past....
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