A MAJOR deal to send illegal migrants back to Turkey has collapsed after Home Office officials declared the Nato member state “unsafe”.
Ex-Home Secretary Suella Braverman blasted the idea, calling it “very concerning”.
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.”
Ministers were desperate to set up a migrant returns deal, similar to the one signed with Albania, following a surge in dinghies from Ankara.
Three thousand illegal migrants landed on British shores from Turkey in 2023, a 162 per cent rise on the year before.
It criticised Turkey’s “over-zealous” use of anti-terrorism laws and said the country doesn’t have a properly independent courts system.
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.”
It comes as new figures show small boat crossings are up 13 per cent on this time last year.
In another blow to the PM, 1,335 illegal migrants arrived on British shores in January.
This time last year a smaller 1,180 made the perilous journey.
On Wednesday alone 278 migrants crammed into just six dinghies to cross the channel.
Downing Street this week said there were “variations” in the number of crossings taking place but insisted it’s “too early to say what the trend is for this year”.
No10 added that the PM is committed to stopping the boats.
A spokesperson said: “On the rolling 12-month stats we’re still down significantly and there is a great deal of work going on with our French counterparts.”