France 'is haven for refugees except those who don't like garlic'

Jacob Rees-Mogg says France is a safe haven for refugees ‘except those who don’t like garlic’ amid row over record cross-Channel journeys by migrants in small boats

  • He took aim at use of the pungent plant in a debate over illicit journey surge
  • MP Jacob Young said the ‘crisis in the channel’ was a ‘national emergency’
  • Rees-Mogg said France ‘safe for refugees except those who don’t like garlic’

Tory minister Jacob Rees-Mogg poked fun at France over the migrant crisis today, insisting the country was a safe haven for refugees – unless they dislike garlic.

In remarks that may ruffle feathers in a country famous for its rich culinary heritage, he took aim at use of the pungent plant in a debate over the surge in illicit journeys from the continent last year.

The Government is facing pushback against its tough new ‘pushback’ policy, with the PCS union which represents thousands of Border Force staff threatening strike action.

In the Commons today, Conservative MP for Redcar Jacob Young demanded ministers declare the ‘crisis in the channel as a national emergency’, adding that France was ‘safe’.

Commons leader Mr Rees-Mogg replied: ‘I wonder how often France has been called safe in this particular chamber over the centuries, but I think we can accept that it is safe for most refugees except those who don’t like garlic who may need to escape.

In remarks that may ruffle feathers in a country famous for its rich culinary heritage, he took aim at use of the pungent plant in a debate over the surge in illicit journeys from the continent last year.

The Government is facing pushback against its tough new ‘pushback’ policy, with the PCS union which represents thousands of Border Force staff threatening strike action.

France has a rich culinary heritage, including widespread use of garlic

‘What has been going on in the Channel is appalling and is something that should concern us all because it is led by people smugglers, it is led by evil people and it has led to deaths and we need to protect further lives from the most dangerous crossings and break the business model of the criminal gangs who exploit desperation.’

Home Secretary Priti Patel is facing a revolt against her plans to get tough on Channel migrants. The PCS union last night lashed out at ‘morally reprehensible’ plans to turn back dinghies that set of from the continent, saying they risked lives and may break international law.

The organisation has joined forces with a refugee charity to seek a judicial review of the ‘pushbacks’ policy.

Even if the court application is unsuccessful, the union has not ruled out industrial action and officials refusing to carry out the pushbacks.

It comes as new figures showed that more than 28,000 people crossed the Dover Strait aboard small boats in 2021, triple the number for 2020.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘The legality of the pushbacks policy is in serious question, and it is right that the court decides whether it is unlawful to turn back Channel boats.

‘We cannot have a situation where our members could be open to potential civil and criminal action for implementing a policy that they do not agree with and know is not safe.

‘Although we are hoping for a positive outcome from the legal proceedings, people should be in no doubt PCS strongly opposes this policy, on moral and humanitarian grounds, and we will not rule out industrial action to prevent it being carried out.’ 

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