80 migrants risk their lives to cross English Channel during coronavirus lockdown

6 April 2020, 14:42

80 migrants have risked their lives to get to the UK
80 migrants have risked their lives to get to the UK. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

At least 80 migrants have risked their lives over the weekend to cross the English Channel while the UK remains under lockdown to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Border authorities intercepted eight boats trying to make the perilous journey, despite there being strict travel restrictions in France and the UK.

Sunny, calm weather in the South East of England may have contributed to the spike in attempts to cross the narrow Dover straits.

Overall nearly 150 migrants - including eight children - have attempted the perilous journey during the two weeks since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced nationwide restrictions on movement.

The spike in crossing attempts over the weekend came after the first cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in migrant camps in northern France, raising fears of a "humanitarian disaster".

Dover and Deal Tory MP Natalie Elphicke said the crossings were "entirely unacceptable" and that migrants must not be taken to Dover.

The boats were found over the weekend
The boats were found over the weekend. Picture: PA

In the latest crossings over the weekend, Border Force intercepted five boats - four on Saturday and one on Sunday.

- At about 2.20am on Saturday Border Force intercepted an inflatable boat carrying 15 men.

- At 5.40am, a group of 12 men and three women were found on board another boat.

- Also at around 5.40am a boat carrying nine men was intercepted.

- Then, at about 6am, Border Force rescued a group of 13 men and one woman from a fourth inflatable boat.

- At about 5am on Sunday, Border Force were again in action, intercepting a boat carrying 12 men.

All those on board were taken to Dover where it is expected they would have been monitored for coronavirus symptoms.

French authorities also intercepted 15 migrants - including two women and a child - off the coast of Boulogne-sur-Mer on Saturday.

Speaking on Saturday after the first batch of crossings, Ms Elphicke said: "With Covid-19 known to be infecting the French camps, it is concerning that 53 more were able to motor over from France this morning.

"It is entirely unacceptable that Border Force officers and our community should be put at risk by people unlawfully breaking into Britain.

"Every illegal entrant must be immediately returned to France. If they are not returned, they must immediately be quarantined to protect public health.

"Illegal entrants must not be brought into Dover at this time. We cannot put our country's vital supply line at risk during the pandemic."