More than 130 migrants arrive in UK on Friday aboard 13 vessels

7 August 2020, 21:29

UK vows action after record-high migrant sea crossings

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

More than 130 migrants arrived in the UK on Friday aboard 13 vessels amid warm and sunny weather.

The Home Office said Border Force boats are continuing to deal with "a number of ongoing incidents," while France has also prevented a number of attempted crossings.

Earlier on Friday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the number of people attempting the journey was "unacceptably high" while speculation has mounted that the Royal Navy could be drafted in to deal with the issue.

However, a Ministry of Defence (MoD) source described the idea as "inappropriate and unnecessary," saying that military resources should not be drawn upon to address "political failings."

The source added that the suggestion was "completely potty" and had "more holes in it than a slice of Swiss cheese."

It comes after a record number of people were stopped in the Channel on Thursday, following the arrival of 120 people on Tuesday.

A full breakdown of crossings and numbers is not yet available, the Home Office spokesman added.

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More than 130 people successfully reached the UK on Friday
More than 130 people successfully reached the UK on Friday. Picture: PA

The spokesman confirmed navy support was one of the potential options being considered, alongside discussions on bolstering Border Force resources in the Channel.

However, campaigners claimed the Home Office has "lost control" over migrant boat crossings in the English Channel after 235 migrants were intercepted yesterday.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is waiting for advice from officials and taking stock of the situation before taking the matter further, his spokesman said.

The MoD has an ongoing arrangement to offer military aid to civil authorities under a process known as MACA, he said, but this previously had been in the form of technical support and advice rather than "putting big boats in the Channel."

"The whole purpose of the MACA process is to determine what could be done and we would not want to pre-judge that", he added.

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Among those to make the perilous journey across the waters used predominantly as shipping lanes was a heavily pregnant woman.

Thursday was the second time in just over a week that a new single-day record has been set, after 202 people crossed to the UK on 30 July.

Human rights charity Detention Action has accused the Home Office of "fuelling chaos, criminality and untold trauma" by trying to crack down on the route in an unsustainable way.

The non-profit's director, Bella Sankey, said: "The Home Office has lost control and all credibility on this issue, fuelling chaos, criminality and untold trauma for those who feel forced to make these dangerous crossings.

"Trying to make this route 'unviable' through greater enforcement is naive grandstanding and amounts to more of the same.

Women and children were pictured on board Border Force vessels
Women and children were pictured on board Border Force vessels. Picture: PA

"What is needed is a recognition that people who reach France will have valid claims to protection in the UK and the urgent development of safe and legal routes for them to do so.

"This would end the crossings overnight and ensure we are standing by our age-old tradition of protecting those seeking sanctuary on our shores."

Meanwhile, Immigration Minister Chris Philp said he shares "the anger and frustration of the public" at the "appalling number" of crossings.

Mr Philps is believed to visiting France again next week to discuss how to improve cooperation and take further measures over the migrant crisis.