Sky News has witnessed several boats of migrants crossing the English Channel in one morning, with a group cheering “UK” as they headed towards Britain.
In what she described as “quite an extraordinary morning” on the English Channel, Sky News correspondent Ali Fortescue encountered four boats of migrants attempting a crossing.
In one encounter, a group of about 10 migrants near the White Cliffs of Dover told Sky News they were from Iran.
The boat from which Sky News was filming had contacted the coastguard and was due to follow the migrants' boat to ensure it was safe as it headed to shore.
An earlier group of 13 migrants, who were travelling on a dinghy without life jackets, told Sky News they were from Sudan.
“It really has been quite an extraordinary morning out on the English Channel,” Ali Fortescue said.
“Of course we know this is now a very familiar scene, that doesn't make it any less unsettling to see.”
She revealed how another boat making a crossing this morning was “cheering 'UK' as we came past”, adding: “They were clearly very excited about the prospect of building a life here in the UK.
“Obviously these are migrants that are absolutely determined to take what is a very, very dangerous journey across the English Channel.
“We know that, even on a calm day like today, this is the busiest shipping lane in the world. It is a dangerous journey.”
The number of people who have reached UK shores in small boats this year is estimated to have surpassed 4,000.
Nearly 600 are thought to have arrived in the country in a surge of crossings between Thursday and Sunday.
The government's immigration minister Chris Philp was due to hold talks with his French counterparts in Paris on Tuesday in an attempt to stem the number of crossings.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has condemned the activities of “cruel” criminal gangs who are risking the lives of people by taking them across the Channel in potentially unseaworthy vessels.
Mr Johnson has vowed to work with the French authorities to stop the crossings and “make sure that they understand that this isn't a good idea, this is a very bad and stupid and dangerous and criminal thing to do”.
Campaigners have accused Mr Johnson of using “inflammatory language”.
Lisa Doyle, the Refugee Council's director of advocacy, said: “It's incredibly disappointing to hear the prime minister using such inaccurate and inflammatory language to describe men, women and children who are desperate enough to make perilous journeys across the busiest shipping channel in the world.
“Seeking asylum is not a crime, and it is legitimate that people have to cross borders to do so.”
The Home Office has formally requested the help of the Royal Navy to deal with the crossings, with Home Secretary Priti Patel having vowed to make the English Channel an “unviable” route for migrants.
Government officials are also considering stronger enforcement measures such as adopting interceptions at sea and the direct return of boats.
Meanwhile, an RAF surveillance aircraft has been deployed over the Channel to support the UK's Border Force.
But Minnie Rahman, from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said the government's plans “will only serve to put people's lives at ever graver risk and they make a mockery of protections for refugees”.
She added: “If the government were serious about tackling trafficking, and resolving this situation once and for all, it would open up safe and legal routes of entry to the UK.
“There are many ways to do so - for example, establishing a claims centre in France and introducing humanitarian visas for people seeking asylum.”
Downing Street has suggested leaving the EU would allow the UK to draw up a new framework for dealing with migrants, ending the “inflexible and rigid” requirements of the current Dublin Regulations.
Health minister Edward Argar told Sky News the prime minister wants “greater flexibility in returning people who have come here illegally, who have been through due process and need to be returned back to France”.