Heavily pregnant woman among record 235 migrants intercepted in one day

7 August 2020, 10:03

A record 235 migrants were intercepted by the Border Force on Thursday
A record 235 migrants were intercepted by the Border Force on Thursday. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

The Home Office has "lost control" over migrant boat crossings in the English Channel after a record number were stopped in a single day, campaigners claim.

At least 235 migrants, including a heavily pregnant woman, made it across the dangerous waters of the English Channel on Thursday on 17 vessels, taking advantage of calm weather.

It follows speculation that the Royal Navy could be drafted in by the Home Office to patrol the busy shipping lanes if the high number of migrant crossings continues.

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.

"What is needed is 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."

The comments were made amid speculation about a possible role for the Royal Navy in patrolling the Channel if migrant crossings continue at pace - something which ministers are yet to deny.

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.

Many migrants continue to camp near the Calais border crossing
Many migrants continue to camp near the Calais border crossing. Picture: PA Images

In a recent incident, Border Force officers apprehended 15 migrants who had landed at Dungeness beach in Kent.

Many migrants continue to camp in and around Calais near the border crossing, hoping to seek shelter from conflicts and better financial prospects.

Asked whether the Navy could be used to support Border Force officials, chancellor Rishi Sunak declined to deny reports but said he was "frustrated" with the situation.

He told Sky News: "I think people are absolutely right to be frustrated at the scenes they're seeing. I'm frustrated, everyone is, which is why we've been working much more closely with the French government in recent time to improve our co-operation and intelligence-sharing to police crossings.

"The immigration minister will be visiting France again, I believe next week, to discuss how we can step up that co-operation and take further action, further measures and stronger measures as required to stop and reduce the tide of boats coming."

Asked about reports that the Navy will be used, he said: "I wouldn't want to speculate on exactly what measures will be put in place.

"It's important that we work closely with our French allies on this situation.

"Obviously France is a safe country for migrants to be. We all want to see these crossings reduced and, pending the outcomes of those conversations, we can decide on the best next steps to take."

Early on Friday morning, more migrants are also believed to have tried to reach the UK as the calm winds in Dover continue.