United Kingdom alarm as migrant boats cross Channel

01 January, 2019, 05:57 | Author: Lucy Floyd
  • A Border Force patrol boat at the Port of Dover

Ninety-four migrants have been detained since Christmas Day while attempting to cross the English Channel to Great Britain from France.

Following a call with his French counterpart, Christophe Castaner, the pair agreed an "enhanced action plan" to be put in place in the coming week.

"Unfortunately, this means that there are no easy answers".

"The British and French authorities have known for some time about the risks posed by criminal gangs of people smugglers along the coast", said Yvetter Cooper, chair of the House of Commons home affairs committee. "I am calling for our Border Force cutters now cruising the Mediterranean to return to United Kingdom waters and form a new Dover Patrol to take back control of our borders immediately".

Britain's Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said Thursday that a spike in migrants crossing the Channel by boat was "deeply concerning", after dozens of people were rescued overnight.

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Border Force officials were called Sunday morning after the men were found on a beach in Kent with a rigid-hulled inflatable boat. "The scale of the problem is unprecedented", Charlie Elphicke, the MP for Dover on the southeast coast of England, told the Daily Mail.

Six Iranian men have been found on a beach in southeastern England, according to British officials, as the number of migrants making crossings of the English Channel in small boats from France continues to rise.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the armed forces were ready to offer help if needed, telling the Sunday Telegraph: 'We have not had any requests as yet but if the Home Office is in need of armed forces support then our Navy, Air Force and Army stand ready to assist'.

Only one of the Border Force's fleet of five cutters - specialist boats which the force describes as being capable of rescuing several migrant boats at the same time - is now operational in the Dover Strait.

A Home Office spokesman said: "The group consisted of nine men, two women and 10-year-old child".

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The National Crime Agency said that tackling the criminals behind these "extremely dangerous" attempted crossings was an "operational priority" and significant resources were devoted to them.

Compared to other influxes of migrants and refugees, the numbers trying to cross the Channel recently are tiny.

In 2017, 26,350 people applied for asylum, an average of about 2,200 a month.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott branded Mr Javid's efforts to bring the crisis under control as "flawed" and criticised his slow response.

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