UK rescues over 260 migrants in the Channel amid Rwanda deportation row

14 June 2022, 12:48 | Updated: 14 June 2022, 16:42

Migrants including a heavily pregnant woman and babies have arrived on the shores of Dover
Migrants including a heavily pregnant woman and babies have arrived on the shores of Dover. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Migrants including a heavily pregnant woman and babies have arrived on the shores of Dover on four ships rescue ships this morning, just hours ahead of the first flight deporting migrants to Rwanda.

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The Dover RNLI lifeboat and the Border Force ship Vigilant brought around 92 migrant adults ashore while 12 children were also spotted leaving the boats after attempting to cross the Channel.

A further 50 people have been brought to shore in Dover on the Border Force ship Hurricane.

While the people on the Vigilant were a mixture of men and women, adults and children, almost all of the people brought ashore from the Hurricane were men, mostly appearing to be in their late teens or 20s.

A fourth Border Force ship Typhoon, carrying approximately 97 people, including women and around 11 children, also docked in Dover been brought ashore.

This latest arrival brings the number of migrants arriving in Kent today to approximately 260 people.

At least seven small boats, presumably used during the crossings, have also been brought to Dover harbour.

More than 10,000 people have made the dangerous crossing so far this year.

One man carried a toddler on his shoulders as he came ashore, and one woman was heavily pregnant.

Asked where they came from refugees said Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read more: 'Traffickers are immoral not us' Truss blasts bishops for saying Rwandan plan 'shames UK'

Migrants including a heavily pregnant woman and babies have arrived on the shores of Dover
Migrants including a heavily pregnant woman and babies have arrived on the shores of Dover. Picture: Alamy

When asked if they knew they could be sent to Rwanda, one migrant replied "What? No" while others looked on in apparent confusion.

Today the first flight is set to take off to Rwanda however currently only seven asylum seekers are scheduled to be on board, according to charity Care4Calais.

And four of them have brought challenges to the High Court today, meaning, if successful, the flight could depart carrying only three people.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the flight will leave UK tarmac tonight no matter how few people are on board.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Liz Truss claimed the migrants who are set to be deported to the African country are being treated with "fairness and compassion".

When grilled by Nick on leaders of the Church of England claiming the UK Government's plan to send failed asylum seekers to Rwanda is an "immoral policy" that "shames Britain", Ms Truss rejected the claims.

The Government Minister said: "I do not agree that assessment at all. We are carrying out this policy that will deal with the appalling people trafficking that is taking place and those are the people that are immoral.

"It’s people who are selling a future dream and are meanwhile hurting people, causing them to loose their lives on the English Channel.

Read more: First Rwanda flight could only have three people on as four more legal challenges lodged

Almost all of the people brought ashore from the Hurricane were men
Almost all of the people brought ashore from the Hurricane were men. Picture: Alamy

"Those are the people that are immoral and that is why we are pursuing this policy of being able to take people to Rwanda for a safer future whilst at the same time deterring the activities of these illegal people traffickers."

Leaders of the Church of England claimed the Government's plan was an "immoral policy" that "shames Britain".

A letter to the Times, signed by the Most Rev Justin Welby and the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, said: "Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation."

It went on: "The shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries.

"The letter - also signed by the bishops of London, Durham, Exeter, Birmingham and Manchester - added: "This immoral policy shames Britain."

The Foreign Secretary insisted the government "are treating people with fairness and compassion" adding that "they will be treated well" in Rwanda.

Read more: 'It’s the government’s job': PM hits back at Charles in Rwanda migrants flights row

On Tuesday morning Boris Johnson accused lawyers representing migrants of "abetting the work of criminal gangs" as he defended the plan.

The plans have been challenged in the courts and condemned by the Church of England's senior bishops and reportedly by the Prince of Wales, with the Prime Minister acknowledging that there had been criticism from "some slightly unexpected quarters".

But he insisted the Government would not be deterred by the attacks "not least from lawyers" and told his Cabinet ministers that "we are going to get on and deliver" the plan.

Opening the Cabinet meeting in No 10, Mr Johnson said there was a "huge amount of attack" aimed at the policy.

"What is happening with the attempt to undermine the Rwanda policy is that they are, I'm afraid, undermining everything that we're trying to do to support safe and legal routes for people to come to the UK and to oppose the illegal and dangerous routes.

"That is what we are trying to do, that is the essence of our policy.

"And I think that what the criminal gangs are doing and what those who effectively are abetting the work of the criminal gangs are doing is undermining people's confidence in the safe and legal system, undermining people's general acceptance of immigration."

Read more: Refugee who was 'raped and beaten' after deportation brands Rwanda plan a 'death sentence'

The Prime Minister added: "We are not going to be in any way deterred or abashed by some of the criticism that is being directed upon this policy, some of it from slightly unexpected quarters.

"We are going to get on and deliver.

"The objective is to ensure that we make that clear distinction, that I think everybody can see is fair and reasonable, between legal immigration to this country by safe and legal routes, which we support and uphold and protect because we all understand the benefits that it brings, and distinguishing that from dangerous and illegal cross-Channel migration which we intend to stop."

A Government spokesperson said: "Our world-leading Partnership with Rwanda will see those making dangerous, unnecessary and illegal journeys to the UK relocated there to have their claims considered and rebuild their lives.

"There is no one single solution to the global migration crisis, but doing nothing is not an option and this partnership will help break the business model of criminal gangs and prevent loss of life.

"Rwanda is a fundamentally safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers and we are confident the agreement is fully compliant with all national and international law."