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Patel cancels trip to Paris for talks over Channel crisis to be briefed on Liverpool bombing

Home Secretary Priti Patel has cancelled a planned trip to Paris to discuss the Channel migrant crisis so that she can be fully briefed on the bombing in Liverpool

Home Secretary Priti Patel has cancelled a planned trip to Paris to discuss the Channel migrant crisis so that she can be fully briefed on the bombing in Liverpool 

The Home Secretary has cancelled a planned trip to Paris to discuss the Channel crisis so that she can be fully briefed on the bombing in Liverpool.

Priti Patel was due to meet her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin on Tuesday amid a war of words between London and Paris following a recent surge of migrant crossings.

However, she cancelled the trip – apparently so that she could be fully briefed on the latest developments after the suicide bombing outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Remembrance Sunday. 

The UK’s terror threat level has been raised to ‘severe’ following an emergency COBRA meeting at Downing Street on Monday. Police and security services advised the Prime Minister that another attack on British soil is now ‘highly likely’.  

At a Covid press briefing, Boris Johnson dramatically urged the country to be ‘vigilant’ and called the blast a ‘stark reminder’ of the risks of terrorism.  

MailOnline exclusively revealed that the Liverpool suicide bomber, Enzo Almeni, arrived in the UK from Iraq several years ago and converted from Islam to Christianity in 2017 at the cathedral it is believed he wanted to attack on Sunday.  

Emmanuel Macron’s government had accused the UK of treating France like a ‘punch ball’ as 1,185 migrants crossed the Channel last Thursday – eclipsing the previous daily high of 853.

London has long accused Paris of failing to do enough to stop the crossings and threatened to withhold a £54million payment agreed earlier this year. France has insisted that the money would allow them to step up coastal patrols and intercept crossings. 

There have been allegations of French inaction as part of a ‘Brexit punishment strategy’ amid ongoing rows over fishing rights and border rules in Northern Ireland. 

Downing Street said it is ‘wrong to conflate’ the issue of migrant crossings with other issues like Brexit and added: ‘This is about criminal gangs endangering lives.’   

In a joint statement tonight, Miss Patel and Mr Darmanin said: ‘Tonight, the Home Secretary spoke to her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin to discuss the problem of small boats crossing the Channel and the operational response to it.

‘Both the Home Secretary and Interior Minister agreed to strengthen operational cooperation further. More must be done to stop the dangerous crossings. They agreed to accelerate the delivery of the commitments made in the joint agreement of July 2021 to deliver on their joint determination to prevent 100 per cent of crossings and make this deadly route unviable.’ 

The escalating row came after shocking photos revealed the squalor of Dunkirk’s ‘New Jungle’, where hundreds of migrants arrive each day. 

Thousands of people are living in shabby tents cramped together at the Grande Synthe camp, with rubbish and debris strewn between them. It appears to be based at an industrial unit with the setting providing very little protection from the elements to the migrants. 

Migrant crossings across the English Channel continued today as more people were brought into Dover on a Border Force patrol boat amid reports that a jet-ski recovered at sea by the RNLI had been used in an attempted crossing

Migrant crossings across the English Channel continued today as more people were brought into Dover on a Border Force patrol boat amid reports that a jet-ski recovered at sea by the RNLI had been used in an attempted crossing

Set up this year on the edge of Dunkirk, the Grande Synthe migrant camp is close to favoured launch sites and is run ruthlessly by armed traffickers

Set up this year on the edge of Dunkirk, the Grande Synthe migrant camp is close to favoured launch sites and is run ruthlessly by armed traffickers

Priti Patel was due to meet her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin on Tuesday amid a bruising war of words following a surge of Channel crossings

Priti Patel was due to meet her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin on Tuesday amid a bruising war of words following a surge of Channel crossings

The migrants call the camp the New Jungle after the infamous shanty town housing 8,000 in Calais was pulled down by the French government several years ago

The migrants call the camp the New Jungle after the infamous shanty town housing 8,000 in Calais was pulled down by the French government several years ago

Police operation in the Jungle of Grande-Synthe in March, when the camp numbered in the hundreds and not the thousands

Police operation in the Jungle of Grande-Synthe in March, when the camp numbered in the hundreds and not the thousands

EXCLUSIVE: Suicide bomber who died when his device blew up outside Liverpool hospital is Syrian asylum seeker, 32, who converted to Christianity ‘at cathedral he wanted to attack’ and was once arrested for carrying a knife 

The suicide bomber who died inside a taxi when his device blew up outside a hospital in Liverpool on Remembrance Sunday has been unmasked.

MailOnline can exclusively reveal that Enzo Almeni, 32, arrived in the UK from Iraq several years ago and converted from Islam to Christianity in 2017 at the cathedral it is believed he wanted to attack yesterday. 

Friends said Almeni was born Emad Jamil Al-Swealmeen to a Syrian father and an Iraqi mother, and is believed to have spent a large part of his life in Iraq.

He suffered from mental health problems and was arrested and sectioned in 2014 for carrying a knife around central Liverpool, MailOnline understands. 

It is thought that Almeni was a motor racing fan who changed his first name to Enzo in honour of Italian supercar creator Enzo Ferrari, and in a bid to sound more Western on his asylum application. 

Almeni spent most of his time in the UK in Liverpool, where he was being supported by Christian volunteers from a network of churches who help asylum seekers. He spent eight months living with devout Christians Malcolm and Elizabeth Hitchcott at their home in the Aigburth district of Liverpool.

Almeni converted to Christianity in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral four years ago, which he had wanted to attack on Remembrance Sunday as 1,200 military personnel, veterans and families of the fallen gathered to observe the 11am minute’s silence. 

It is thought he initially asked Mr Perry to drive him to the cathedral, but that traffic and road closures stopped him from getting there. It is believed he died after being locked in a cab by hero taxi driver David Perry as it exploded into a fireball outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital. 

Detectives and MI5 spies are investigating whether the bombing was an Islamist-inspired attack and if Almeni had been motivated to kill himself and others. 

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline today, Mr Hitchcott, a former British Army soldier, said he met Almeni in 2015 through his work at Liverpool Cathedral when he started expressing an interest in converting to Christianity. 

He also revealed that Almeni was refused asylum once before, saying: ‘He was refused asylum in 2014 by the UK. He had his case decided, rejected, because he has been sectioned because of some mental health incident.’ 

Mr Hitchcott said: ‘He first came to the cathedral in August 2015 and wanted to convert to Christianity. He took an Alpha course, which explains the Christian faith, and completed it in November of that year. That enabled him to come to an informed decision and he changed from Islam to Christianity and was confirmed as a Christian by at least March 2017, just before he came to live with us. He was destitute at that time and we took him in.’ 

 

There is no electricity and the mud is ankle deep when it rains. There are too few latrines for a population that grows daily, with hundreds arriving every day, and charity vans provide food once a day.

Set up this year on the edge of Dunkirk, it is close to favoured launch sites and is run ruthlessly by armed traffickers. Two weeks ago, an African was shot four times in a row over the price of a crossing. 

The first Afghans fleeing the Taliban’s takeover have arrived, as have those slipping over the border between Belarus and Poland. 

They were driven there, sources said, by British traffickers in cars with UK registration plates which picked them up in Poland and made a 22-hour journey to northern France. 

The migrants call the camp the New Jungle after the infamous shanty town housing 8,000 in Calais was pulled down by the French government several years ago.  

There are claims that the lack of enforcement on the French coast – which saw just 99 migrants intercepted on Thursday out of 1,284 who tried to reach the UK – is part of a ‘Brexit punishment strategy’ and has become linked to rows over fishing and Northern Ireland.  

The total to have reached British shores since the start of the year stands at more than 23,500 – nearly three times the 8,400 in the whole of 2020. 

But one Government source told the Times that ministers are bleak about the prospects of tougher action by France.

‘They don’t think the French are going to give them anything at all,’ the source said. ‘With the elections coming up they think it will only get worse. They think it’s part of Macron’s Brexit punishment strategy.’

A Home Office source added: ‘We’re just part of a much bigger issue with the election, Northern Ireland and fishing. They don’t want to be using French taxpayers’ money ahead of the election.’

Set up this year on the edge of Dunkirk, the new camp is close to favoured launch sites and is run ruthlessly by armed traffickers. Two weeks ago, an African was shot four times in a row over the price of a crossing. 

Even French armed police are reluctant to enter the camp for fear a confrontation with the traffickers, and the French government turns a blind eye.

‘The French know conditions are appalling,’ said an informant inside the camp. ‘They are deliberately creating a hostile environment so migrants want to leave and get on Channel boats. 

‘It has become a push factor for reaching Britain along with dreams of hotels and benefits which are not given by the French.’

Hundreds arrive every few days. One Afghan blagged his way on to a French military plane out of Kabul by using a British Border Force ID card he was given when he lived in Birmingham five years ago. ‘I dream of getting back into the UK,’ he told French TV as he stood on the beach. 

Hundreds are marshalled out to the beaches for night-time Channel crossings organised by traffickers. The source said: ‘It is a military operation run ruthlessly.’

There are five zones in the camp. Some house different nationalities, another is for children and mothers – and there is a special one for the wealthiest, the VIP Zone, for migrants with at least £6,000.

The source added: ‘They are predominantly Vietnamese, Chinese and Albanians. They are put at the front of the queue and get the safest and fastest boats.’

Others are less lucky. Destitute Africans who have been in France for years languish here as they barter over the price of a place on a rickety vessel.

Last week, Mr Johnson urged Mr Macron to ‘close off the door’ to migrants entering French territory and attempting perilous Channel crossings.

This month, the Home Office sent the first instalments of a £54million deal with France to fund beach patrols – but migrant numbers have since soared.

Miss Patel stressed that the migrant crisis was a ‘shared problem’ with France, but Mr Macron’s government is understood to oppose the introduction of her ‘pushback’ tactic to intercept small boats and direct them back to the French coast.

The Home Secretary said: ‘Last week showed we must do more. I want to go further and faster, and that’s why I will be holding talks with Gerald Darmanin this week.’ 

Border Force has been resisting requests to use the ‘pushback’ strategy, citing objections such as weather and size of boats being intercepted. 

The PCS union representing border guards said last night it was poised to seek a judicial review into pushback tactics.

Spokesman Kevin Mills said some members had ‘concerns about safety and if it is legal’, adding: ‘If someone dies, it won’t be Priti Patel taking the body out of the water.’ 

The migrants call the camp the New Jungle after the infamous shanty town housing 8,000 in Calais was pulled down by the French government several years ago.

The migrants call the camp the New Jungle after the infamous shanty town housing 8,000 in Calais was pulled down by the French government several years ago.

Border officers patrolling on jet skis off the coast of Kent earlier this month

Border officers patrolling on jet skis off the coast of Kent earlier this month   

It came as it emerged the outgoing head of Border Force, Paul Lincoln, described ‘bloody borders’ as ‘a pain in the bloody a***’ during a leaving speech.

However, Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said: ‘Criminal gangs have been running rings around the French authorities for too long. It’s important to hear France’s plan to turn the tables on the people traffickers, bring an end to the migrant crisis and prevent further loss of life in the Channel.’

Former security minister Sir John Hayes urged the Government to press on with pushback and ‘process all asylum applications offshore’. He said this had a ‘dramatic effect’ when introduced by Australia’s controversial Operation Sovereign Borders in 2013.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen added: ‘If they knew they were going to be turned around immediately and sent back to France, it would take a week and it would stop.’

Dan O’Mahoney, the Home Office’s Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, said: ‘Migrants are putting their lives at risk and it is vital we do everything we can to prevent them and break the business model of the criminal gangs exploiting people.’ 

Border Force has been seen off Dover practicing the pushback tactics, involving three jet skis surrounding a migrant boat and directing it back to France.  

According to guidance, the tactic can only be used in the Channel sections which are 1.8 miles wide and a commander can only agree to the procedure if it is confirmed that a French navy or rescue boat can escort the boat back.

Other safety rules must also be met including weather, sea conditions, number of migrants and size of the boat.  

In Australia and Greece, when similar tactics were used, migrants threatened to jump overboard in a bid to force authorities to rescue them.    

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