Record 202 migrants reach the UK after crossing the Channel

Charles Hymas
·4-min read

At least 202 illegal migrants reached the UK by boat across the Channel yesterday to set a new single-day record for crossings.

Border Force vessels intercepted at least 20 boats as smugglers took advantage of exceptionally calm summer conditions, the Home Office confirmed yesterday.

The new record for migrants reaching the UK by boat in a single day surpasses that set on July 12 when at least 180 made it to the English shore line.

It means the number of migrants to have crossed the Channel this year is already nearly double the 1,892 for the whole of last year.

The Summer surge will pile pressure on Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, who has been trying to negotiate a new agreement with the French whereby they will take back migrants at sea wherever they are found in the Channel.

The flagrant bravura of the migrants was underlined yesterday when a group of five migrants landed on a Kent beach and took selfies to celebrate crossing the Channel by boat.

They jumped out of their dinghy as they approached the coast and swam to shore at St Margaret's At Cliffe near Dover in the early hours of the morning.

Two of the men were later snapped grinning while taking a selfie on a silver phone, while others laid back and waited around near the beach before police arrived and gave them face masks.

Another vessel carrying 10 migrants landed on the beach near the Tudor-built Walmer Castle - a former artillery fort near Deal built for Henry VIII.

It was the official home of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in her role as the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, and she regularly had summer holidays there.

The migrants are said to have been "bemused" after they managed to avoid Border Force vessels and reach British land. They ditched their boat in the water and a member of the public brought it to shore.

A boat carrying nine people made it to shore at Kingsdown Beach, near Deal, around 9am - and they were found in a nearby churchyard.

Another two vessels - one carrying around 20 people - are believed to have been spotted in the Channel in a busy morning for Border Force officials. It is also understood a migrant on a kayak attempted the crossing flanked by a French vessel.

If true, it confirms the Home Secretary’s concerns. Last month she accused the French authorities of failing to turn back illegal migrant boats even when they are just 250 yards from their shore.

She disclosed that she had had “difficult” conversations with the French who were refusing to intercept the boats even in their own waters despite a UK Government assessment that it was legal under maritime law to return them to France.

Watch: British family find migrants in their roof box

Britain has offered to work with the French on joint exercises at sea to see how the boats could be returned to France safely when the migrants might resist.

Border Force officers have already conducted their own exercises at sea with the Navy to develop ways of picking up boats and returning them to France. Among measures being trialled are nets that the military deploy to clog propellers and bring the boats to a standstill.

“That’s the dialogue we are entering into with [the French] to get them to work with us and show willing,”said Ms Patel. “To end this route, we have to intercept boats at sea and return them to France.”

Of yesterday’s record 202 migrants crossing, a Coastguard spokesman said: "HM Coastguard has today coordinated search and rescue responses to multiple incidents off Kent, working with Border Force and other partners.

"Border Force vessels Seeker, Speedwell and Hunter were sent.

"We are committed to safeguarding life around the seas and coastal areas of this country.

"HM Coastguard is only concerned with preservation of life, rescuing those in trouble and bringing them safely back to shore, where they will be handed over to the relevant partner emergency services or authorities."

It comes as a charity blamed French police "violent" migrant camp evictions for fuelling Channel crossings.

More than 1,000 refugees have been cleared from settlements in Calais over the past two weeks - the "most intense" since the 2016 jungle clearance - with officers regularly using tear gas.

Care4Calais, which supports the migrants, said evictions have been happening on a daily basis and that 500 were removed from a camp on July 10 - twodays before Ms Patel visited France.

They were taken to other parts of France by bus, but most have returned to the port city.

Police are also said to have cut food and water supplies to those living in camps.

Charity chiefs said the evictions - which see migrants' possessions destroyed - is driving the surge of small boat crossings.

They also said Ms Patel "has no strategy" to protect refugees and control the borders - and that she and her French counterparts are "only adding to the chaos in the Channel".

And they accused her of "mounting a coordinated campaign to demoralise refugees" through the French to deter them from crossing.

Care4Calais founder Clare Moseley said a "safe, legal" asylum process is needed, and that it would bring an end to the evil, lucrative trade of people smuggling.