United Kingdom

Border Force catch 180 migrants trying to cross Channel in three days

Border Force officials have detained around 180 migrants trying to cross the Channel in the last three days as people smugglers take advantage of good weather to make the treacherous 21-mile crossing from France.

Around 50 migrants are thought to have been caught by officers today, meaning more than 2,500 people have been prevented from making the journey across the Straits of Dover so far this year. 

Yesterday, Border Force intercepted 81 migrants on three inflatable dinghies while French authorities caught 70 in two boats. On Saturday, UK officials detained 49 migrants in three small boats.

All those captured by Border Force were brought into Dover harbour where they were handed over to immigration officers as nearly 200 migrants were intercepted by UK officials last week. 

According to official figures at least 2,515 migrants have been detained already this year with 831 detained in March and 746 in April alone. In 2020 8,410 migrants were detained making the crossing compared to 1,850 in 2019.

According to official figures at least 2,515 migrants have been detained already this year with 831 detained in March and 746 in April alone. In 2020 8,410 migrants were detained making the crossing compared to 1,850 in 2019

Border Force officials have detained around 180 migrants trying to cross the Channel in the last three days. Pictured earlier this month  

Around 50 migrants are thought to have been caught by officers today, meaning more than 2,500 people have been prevented from making the journey across the Straits of Dover so far this year. Pictured earlier this month  

A Home Office spokesperson said: 'We are working closely with our partners in France to stop these unnecessary journeys and the ruthless criminal gangs behind them.

'As a result more than 2,500 people have been prevented from making the dangerous crossing so far this year, and we have also secured 65 small boat related prosecutions since the start of 2020.

'There is more work to be done and our New Plan for Immigration will fix the asylum system, cracking down on the business model of people smugglers who put lives at risk by facilitating dangerous journeys into the UK.'  

In March, Priti Patel announced plans to overhaul Britain's immigration regime by giving border guards patrolling the Channel greater powers to turn back migrant boats.  

The crackdown will be dependent on France and other countries accepting the return of migrants. 

The planned shake-up includes other controversial steps such as stripping failed asylum seekers of support and accommodation.

Foreign nationals could also be refused UK visas if their governments do not accept deportations of their own immigration rule-breakers from Britain.

France struck a deal with the UK in November to tackle illegal Channel crossings but has so far resisted the idea of having dinghies sent back to its northern beaches.

The Government's new plan for immigration, published in full on March 24, revealed the bill for the asylum system is set to rise to more than £1.3billion this year, from just under £1billion in 2019-20.

According to official figures at least 2,515 migrants have been detained already this year with 831 detained in March and 746 in April alone. Pictured earlier this month  

Border Force officials were seen helping one woman off the boat after she was picked up making the crossing earlier this month 

The previous daily record for attempted migrant crossings this year had been 183 on March 23.

There were 1,850 migrants detained recorded for the entire year in 2019.

In 2020 there were a record 8,410 migrants detained reaching the UK across the Channel in small boats compared to 2019.

But the latest figures have heightened fears that this total will be surpassed this year despite the increase in funding and resources to tackle the problem.

The National Crime Agency has issued an alert to the UK maritime industry, warning them that organised crime groups may target them to obtain small boats for people smugglers.

The alert warns that since global Covid-19 lockdown measures were imposed in March 2020 the number of migrants attempting to enter the UK using small boats has rocketed.

The NCA says UK law enforcement detected in excess of eight thousand migrant arrivals throughout 2020 and that this has led to a rise in demand for vessels to aid migrant Channel crossings, with demand likely to continue as weather conditions improve through spring and summer.

It says organised crime groups are known to target legitimate sellers of vessels and equipment such as outboard motors and life jackets, both in person and online.

There are also incidents recorded of boats and equipment being stolen.

The NCA has conducted a number of operations targeting those who supply boats to people smugglers, but the agency is asking those in the industry to report concerns or suspicious activity relating to the purchase of boat equipment.

NCA Head of Organised Immigration Crime Operations, Miles Bonfield, said: 'Today we are directly appealing to those within the marine and maritime industries to help us stop those involved in organised people smuggling.

'Crossing the channel in vessels like these is extremely dangerous and life threatening - but the organised crime groups involved don't care about safety or welfare, they just see migrants as a commodity to be exploited.

'We're already working closely with a range of partners in the UK and on the continent to target the supply of these vessels, but we are now asking that the UK industry helps us and report any suspicions they may have.'

Officers have listed warning signs to look out for including cash being used in large sums to make payment, an unusual combination of boats and equipment in one transaction, enquiries about bulk purchase of equipment such as life jackets and a lack of concern about the condition of boats and equipment.

Number of migrants crossing the Channel in small boats

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