Record 430 migrants cross Channel to UK in single day
A record number of at least 430 migrants have illegally crossed the Channel to the UK in a single day, the government said on Tuesday, as it vowed a crackdown.
Monday’s figure surpassed a previous daily high of 416 in September last year, and came as UK lawmakers debate new legislation that would overhaul asylum rules and impose stricter jail terms for both migrants and people-smugglers.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and his British counterpart Priti Patel held a video call and agreed to “reinforce” cooperation to fight clandestine immigration.
Britain has pledged 62.7 million euros ($ 73.8 million) in 2021-2022 to help France stem the flow of illegal migrants crossing the Channel, the French interior ministry said.
This includes “beefing up security forces along the coast”, it said.
According to the BBC, nearly 8,000 people on 345 vessels have reached the English coast from mainland Europe this year.
Growing numbers of migrants — many of them on dangerously overcrowded inflatable boats — have reached the UK since the start of 2020. The crossings typically increase in favourable summer weather.
One dinghy carrying around 50 people including women and children landed Monday in Kent on England’s southern coast, with some raising their hands in celebration.
Dan O’Mahoney, the government’s Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, called the rise in crossings “unacceptable” and “dangerous”.
“People should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach and not risk their lives making these dangerous crossing,” he said.
“We are continuing to pursue the criminals behind these illegal crossings.”
Last year, the government says roughly 8,500 people arrived in Britain having made the perilous journey across the Channel, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
Most of the crossings start in France, and the two governments have been at loggerheads over who should take responsibility for stopping them.
O’Mahoney said the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill would “protect lives and break this cycle of illegal crossings”.
The legislation increases the maximum sentence for migrants entering the UK unlawfully from six months to four years. Convicted people-smugglers would face a life sentence.
“People cross the Channel because they are out of options,” Daniel Sohege, director of the human rights group Stand For All, wrote on Twitter.
“This is what happens when other routes are closed,” he added, saying the new bill would make the situation “worse and more dangerous”.
Priti Patel insisted the legislation was long overdue, vowing to take back control of UK borders after the country’s Brexit departure from the European Union.
“This bill will finally address the issues that have resulted in the broken system — of over a long period of time — of illegal migration,” she told parliament on Monday.