UK border: 13 boats carrying over 130 migrants intercepted on English Channel

Figures follow suggestion home secretary could use Royal Navy to tackle surge in crossings

Conrad Duncan
Friday 07 August 2020 21:59
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Migrants offloaded from Border Force patrol boat

The Home Office has said Border Force officials have intercepted 13 boats carrying more than 130 migrants arriving in the UK on Friday.

A spokesperson for the department said Border Force was continuing to deal with “a number of ongoing incidents” as small boat crossings across the English Channel continued this afternoon, with young children wearing lifejackets seen arriving in Dover.

The statement came after it was suggested Priti Patel, the home secretary, was considering sending the Royal Navy to tackle a surge in Channel migrant crossings.

At least 235 migrants made the highly dangerous journey across the world's busiest shipping lane on Thursday in 17 boats, setting a new single day record.

Kent County Council, which is responsible for lone children arriving on its shores, said 60 unaccompanied migrant children had arrived in the UK after the crossings in the last eight days, with 23 under-18s being taken into care on Friday alone.

The Times reported on Friday that ministers were considering blocking migrant boats in the Channel before they can enter British waters in a desperate attempt to stem rising numbers of crossing.

The approach under consideration is thought to be modelled on tactics used by Australia against migrants, the newspaper said.

Damian Collins, the Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe, said the numbers of migrants crossing the Channel in recent days were “shamefully high”.

“It's clearly unacceptable for my constituents and for other people on the south-east coast to think that our borders are open, that anyone can get in a small boat, whoever they are, and make their way to the UK illegally,” Mr Collins told Channel 4 News.

“Having the Navy in the Channel is great, but it won't solve the problem unless they can patrol French waters and at the moment there is no agreement that they can.”

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) source described the suggestion of sending in the Royal Navy as “inappropriate and unnecessary”, arguing military resources should not be used to address “political failings”.

“It's beyond absurd to think that we should be deploying multi-million pound ships and elite soldiers to deal with desperate people barely staying afloat on rubber dinghies in the Channel,” the source told PA news agency.

“It could potentially put people's lives at even greater risk."

They added: “Border Force is effectively the Home Office's own navy fleet, so it begs the question what are they doing.”

Almost 4,000 migrants have crossed the Channel to the UK so far this year, according to analysis by PA - more than double the total of people which were thought to have arrived in the country in the whole of 2019.

Chris Philp, the immigration minister, will visit France next week to speak with counterparts following a “constructive” meeting with the country’s deputy ambassador.

The Commons Home Affairs Committee has launched an inquiry into the rising number of incidents and said it will look into criminal gangs which run crossings and the dangers faced by passengers.

Yvette Cooper, the chairman of the committee, said it was “particularly troubling to see children being put at risk”.

Additional reporting by agencies

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