Migration

Tragic record as 800 migrants cross English Channel to UK in single day

Migrants who attempted to cross the English Channel disembark after being rescued by Britain's Border Force.
Migrants who attempted to cross the English Channel disembark after being rescued by Britain's Border Force. © Reuters/Peter Nicholls

At least 828 migrants crossed the Channel from France to England on a single day last weekend, according to government sources in London. A new daily record which brings the number of people having risked the dangerous crossing this year to over 12,000.

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Britain's interior ministry confirmed that 828 people had been rescued or intercepted on Saturday. Many were attempting to cross one of the world's busiest shipping lanes on dangerously overcrowded small boats.

The ministry noted that French authorities had intercepted a further 10 crossing attempts, preventing 193 people from reaching the UK. There were no confirmed arrivals on Sunday.

Saturday's numbers dramatically surpass a previous daily record of 482 people, set only weeks earlier as migrants take advantage of favourable summer weather.

"These dangerous crossings from safe European Union countries are completely unnecessary and we are determined to take down the evil criminal gangs behind them," Dan O'Mahoney, Britain's Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, said.

He noted cross-Channel cooperation had led to the doubling of police officer numbers on French beaches, preventing more than 10,000 attempted crossings.

The improved border enforcement effort had also led to nearly 300 arrests and 65 prosecutions, O'Mahoney added.

'Smart border'

In July, the British and French interior ministers, Priti Patel and Gérald Darmanin, met to discuss the issue of migrants crossing the Channel.

The two countries reiterated their willingness to reinforce police forces along the French coast, to deploy surveillance technologies "to [secure] the borders at the level of the main transport infrastructures along the Channel coast".

Home Secretary Priti Patel pledged tens of millions of pounds to France to help it stem the flow of illegal migration, including funding the doubling of officers patrolling beaches.

The "United Kingdom has committed to a financial investment of 62.7 million euros in 2021-22 to support France," the joint declaration states.

The text also refers to the establishment, "in the long term," of a "smart border" along the coastline, with surveillance technology "to better detect attempted crossings".

But securing the border does not prevent crossings. And the migrants who wait on the French coast, sometimes for months, in the hope of reaching the United Kingdom, are not ready to give up.

British MPs are currently debating the new Asylum Bill, which will tighten asylum policy in the UK.

5,000 Afghans to be welcomed

Since the Taliban took over Kabul on 15 August, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that the UK would take in 20,000 Afghans in a "long-term" process. 

The announcement was criticised by the opposition and NGOs because only 5,000 people will be able to be taken in during the first year, leaving the other 15,000 in danger.

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