UK Says Migrant Numbers Crossing Channel From France ‘Unacceptable’

File photo of migrants crossing on a boat off French Guiana. PHOTO: AFP


Britain on Friday said the number of migrants trying to cross the Channel illegally from France was “unacceptable”, after a daily record of 1,185 people made the journey.

The authorities rescued or intercepted the unprecedented numbers on Thursday in 33 separate events, while French officials prevented 99 people reaching the UK in seven incidents, according to the interior ministry in London.

“The British public have had enough of seeing people die in the Channel while ruthless criminal gangs profit from their misery,” a ministry spokesperson said, adding planned changes to immigration laws “will fix the broken system”.

The single-day tally of migrants using small boats and other makeshift means to cross the Channel surpasses the previous record of 853 set earlier this month, according to the ministry.

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Meanwhile, three migrants have been reported missing after seeking to make the journey from the northern French coastline to southeast England in canoes, French maritime authorities said Friday.

Their disappearance was reported by two other migrants rescued at sea, according to the regional maritime prefecture, with search efforts halted on Thursday at nightfall and not set to resume.

The past three years have seen a significant rise in attempted Channel crossings by migrants, despite warnings of the dangers in the busy shipping lane, which is subject to strong currents and low temperatures.

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According to a count this month by Britain’s domestic news agency PA, more than 21,000 migrants have made the crossing to Britain in small boats since the beginning of the year — more than double the figure for the whole of 2020.

The issue of policing migrants wanting to cross the Channel is a constant source of friction between Britain and France.

London has committed to providing Paris with tens of millions of pounds of funding for stepped-up enforcement, but reports have said it could threaten to halt the incremental payments without signs of progress.

Meanwhile, the government is pushing through new legislation that would significantly toughen penalties against such migration, and Home Secretary Priti Patel says she is reviewing maritime tactics to deter people smugglers.

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