By Peter Nicholls
DOVER, England (Reuters) - Britain said on Tuesday it wanted greater flexibility to return illegal immigrants to France after a surge in the number embarking on the perilous journey across the English Channel.
Hundreds of people, including some children, have been caught crossing to southern England from makeshift camps in northern France since Thursday - many navigating one of the world's busiest shipping routes in overloaded rubber dinghies.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he wants to stop the illegal crossings and has sent Immigration Minister Chris Philp to Paris for talks with the French government.
Britain says the EU's so-called Dublin Regulation, which currently governs the return of illegal immigrants, is too inflexible and has very tight timeframes. Junior health minister Edward Argar said Johnson wanted more flexibility.
"What he's looking at, quite rightly, is greater flexibility ... in returning people who have come here illegally ... and need to be returned back to France," Argar told Sky News.
More than 20 migrants were escorted to Dover on Tuesday by the British border force.
Many of the migrants seeking to reach Britain come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria and countries in Africa, fleeing poverty, persecution or war.
Some stand a chance of being granted asylum, while others, considered illegal economic migrants, are unlikely to be allowed to remain in Britain.
Organised crime groups offer to help the migrants cross the Channel for around 500 pounds ($650), the Sun newspaper reported, adding that some smugglers offer "kids go free" deals.
Britain's interior ministry, known as the Home Office, declined repeated requests to supply data on the number of illegal crossings.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Sarah Young; editing by Kate Holton and Giles Elgood)