Downing Street defends response to migrants as 380 attempt to cross Channel

13 July 2020, 09:57

The Home Office confirmed around 380 migrants attempted to cross the Channel at the weekend
The Home Office confirmed around 380 migrants attempted to cross the Channel at the weekend [File Photo]. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

At least 180 migrants were able to cross the English Channel to the UK on Sunday - a new single-day record.

They were among more than 380 migrants who attempted the crossing, the Home Office confirmed on Monday morning.

More than 200 migrants were intercepted by the French and prevented from reaching the UK.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said there were fifteen seperate incidents on Sunday when officers intercepted boats attempting the crossing from France.

On Sunday Home Secretary Priti Patel and her French counterpart signed an agreement on intelligence sharing in an effort to tackle people smugglers.

They have agreed to create a Franco-British intelligence cell, French Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin said on Sunday afternoon.

Ms Patel was been in Calais today for talks on security cooperation between the two nations.

Downing Street defended its response to migrants crossing the English Channel.

"Last year there were 418 arrests made, which led to 203 convictions and a total of 437 years in prison," the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.

There were 259 arrests and 101 convictions for the offence of people-smuggling itself, the spokesman said.

"We have been working very closely with the French to stop the illegal channel crossings," he added.

"The French government and others have been clearing migrant camps, patrolling beaches, and have stopped over 1,000 migrant crossings this year."

Officials insisted that migrants were returned back across the Channel "wherever possible".

Speaking to reporters on Sunday Ms Patel said: "I have been in France today seeing first-hand the significant work undertaken on that side of the Channel to address the unacceptably high levels of small boats, alongside the efforts of Border Force and the National Crime Agency in the UK.

"But despite all of the action taken by law enforcement to date - intercepting the boats, making arrests, returning people to France and putting the criminals responsible behind bars - the numbers continue to increase.

"This simply cannot be allowed to go on. Today, I have signed an agreement with the French to create a joint intelligence cell which will crack down on the gangs behind this vile people-smuggling operation and impressed on my French counterpart the need to stop these illegal crossings for the benefit of both our countries.

"This is the start of a new operational approach with the newly appointed French Interior Minister."

It is not clear if the new agreement includes measures to return migrants picked up in UK waters to France.

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