Illegal Channel crossings soar as more than 1,000 migrants intercepted in past five days

·3 min read
A group of people, thought to be migrants, on a Border Force rib at Dover last year. (PA)
A group of people thought to be migrants on a Border Force rib at Dover last year. (PA)

More than 1,000 suspected asylum seekers have been intercepted trying to cross the English Channel from France to the UK in the past five days.

French and British authorities stopped a total of 1,042 people in 54 attempted crossings from last Friday to Tuesday when the warm dry weather kept the waters in the Channel calm.

The Home Office said that last Friday alone the UK authorities dealt with 19 incidents involving 336 people, while the French prevented seven crossings involving another 165.

Although the government has promised to crack down on the number of crossings so far they have only seen increases.

Watch: Asylum seekers win High Court challenge over ‘squalid’ Napier Barracks

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Last year saw the highest numbers of migrants making illegal crossings since numbers began, and currently 2021 is set to beat that records.

More than 4,000 people have made the journey to the UK so far this year compared with around 1,600 at the same time last year.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Criminal gangs are putting profits before people’s lives through these dangerous and unnecessary crossings.

“More than 3,500 people have been prevented from making the dangerous crossing so far this year and we are cracking down on the despicable criminal gangs behind people smuggling.

“Inaction is not an option whilst people are dying. The Government is bringing legislation forward through our New Plan for Immigration which will break the business model of these heinous smuggling networks and save lives.”

On Thursday the government lost a legal challenge brought by six asylum seekers who were formerly housed at Napier Barracks.

A group of people thought to be migrants on the deck of HMC Seeker, queue to be brought ashore in Dover last year. (PA)
A group of people thought to be migrants on the deck of HMC Seeker, queue to be brought ashore in Dover last year. (PA)

The men, all said to be survivors of torture or human trafficking, argued that the Home Office unlawfully accommodated people at the “squalid” barracks and conditions there posed “real and immediate risks to life and of ill-treatment”.

On Thursday, Mr Justice Linden found that the Home Office had acted unlawfully when deciding the former military camp was adequate to house the men.

Mr Justice Linden added the barracks were a “detention-like” setting for the men who were meant to be living at the camp voluntarily, and that the conditions were likely to impact the mental health of those living there.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds called the judgment a “shameful verdict” for the government and home secretary Priti Patel.

Home Secretary Priti Patel leaves BBC Broadcasting House in London after her appearance on the BBC One current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show. Picture date: Sunday May 23, 2021.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has vowed to clamp down on the crossings. (PA)

The home secretary has repeatedly vowed to make the dangerous route “unviable” and has revealed new plans to handle the influx of migrants.

The plans would see refugees who arrive in Britain via unauthorised routes such as boats crossing the Channel denied an automatic right to asylum and instead regularly re-assessed for removal to safe countries they passed through.

The Home Office says that it has secured more than 65 small boat-related prosecutions since the start of 2020, leading to total of more than 53 years in jail sentences.

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Asylum seekers intercepted on the British side of the Channel by the UK's Border Force are usually taken to Dover in Kent for interviewing and processing.

Others have been taken in by UK authorities after landing in places along the Kent coast including Folkestone, Romney Marsh and Kingsdown.

Four members of one family died off the French coast last October.

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