Dozens cross to Dover a day after body of migrant found on French coast

By Michael Drummond, PA South East Correspondent
·4-min read

A small child is among dozens more people who have crossed to the UK on Monday, the day after a migrant was found dead on a French beach.

The young migrant was carried ashore by a Border Force official after being brought into Dover harbour.

She was among several groups of people who were seen arriving at the Kent port after crossing to the UK on small boats.

It comes as the Children’s Commissioner has raised concerns that children who arrive on migrant boats can end up waiting almost 72 hours at in a holding unit without access to showers or beds.

Wind speeds in the English Channel, calm over the weekend, are increasing again on Monday, making the crossing even more treacherous.

More than 200 people navigated the 27-mile stretch of sea to reach the UK on Saturday and Sunday, while French authorities prevented 370 from crossing.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, by Border Force following a small boat incident in the Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA)

At least 100 people crossed to the UK on Monday, with many seen being brought into Dover on Monday aboard patrol vessels and by the RNLI.

One group was seen wrapped in white blankets and wearing life jackets as they arrived aboard a black Border Force rib boat.

They were escorted ashore where they will be medically assessed before being moved on.

Border Force and French patrols have been active in the Channel on Monday along with the RNLI.

Recent bad weather has rendered crossings nigh-on impossible, with Saturday’s 170 arrivals in Dover the most since September 22.

The perils of crossing the world’s busiest shipping lane were laid bare on Sunday morning, when the body of a migrant was tragically found on the French coast.

The man was discovered wearing a life jacket on a beach near Sangatte outside Calais after trying to cross the Channel, authorities said.

It brings the number of people who have died while making the dangerous journey since 2018 to six.

Minister for immigration compliance and the courts Chris Philp said: “Yesterday’s tragic loss of life in France is a stark reminder of the perilous journey migrants face in the Channel.

“This is why we are doing all we can to stop these crossings and make this route unviable, including by tracking down the criminal gangs who are risking vulnerable people’s lives for profit.”

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, by Border Force following a small boat incident in the Channel.

Speaking in a blog post published on Monday, Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield raised concerns about the plight of asylum-seeking children.

She said: “The pandemic has made these children’s journeys more visible and more perilous, but this story is all too familiar.

“Growing numbers of children are fleeing danger and harm yet are blocked from finding sanctuary in the UK by prohibitive legislation set within an unwelcoming, slow-moving system.”

She said that safe and legal routes which used to be available to them to come to the UK have “fallen away”, adding: “Need is increasing but the few remaining doors for vulnerable children are closing.”

Ms Longfield also raised concerns about what happens to unaccompanied children when they arrive in Dover since Kent County Council announced that it was unable to safely care for any more.

She said: “Having so many children concentrated in one area has put immense strain on the county’s ability to meet their needs, such as making sure they are in suitable housing, accessing education at the right level for them, and getting health treatment.

“This means children, who have survived a dangerous boat crossing, may have slept rough for months or been trafficked – possibly drugged in the boot of a car, can then end up waiting almost 72 hours at in a holding unit without access to showers or beds, waiting for social workers from another county to come and collect them.

“While frontline staff are working tirelessly to care for these children, the current situation is untenable.”

Responding to the Children’s Commissioner’s comments, a Home Office spokesperson said: “Our efforts remain focused on ensuring every single unaccompanied child receives appropriate support whilst we seek a permanent place for them with a local authority.

“They are always prioritised and held at the Kent Intake Unit for as short a period as possible.”