More than 1,000 cross Channel as UK urged to honour £54m pledge to France

·4-min read

More than 1,000 people got into small boats and made the dangerous trip across the English Channel to the UK in two days despite temperatures dropping following the end of summer.

After 10 days in which no crossings were possible due to bad weather, at least 40 boats managed to reach Britain on Friday and Saturday.

Meanwhile, the UK has been urged to keep its word by a French minister who claimed none of the £54 million it promised France to help tackle migrant crossings has been paid.

Interior minister Gerald Darmanin said “not one euro has been paid”, following his visit to Dunkirk on Saturday.

Home Secretary Priti Patel recently threatened to withhold the funding unless more people were stopped from reaching the UK.

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

Since the start of the year, more than 18,000 people have succeeded in reaching the UK on board small boats, according to data compiled by the PA news agency.

A flurry of crossing attempts on Friday saw 624 people reach the UK – the fourth highest daily tally on record during the current crisis.

Crossings continued on Saturday with at least 491 people, including children, arriving in Britain after making the perilous journey.

The figures were confirmed by the Home Office on Sunday morning, as the Border Force was once again active in the Channel.

More people were seen arriving in Dover on Sunday as crossings continued for a third day in a row.

A young girl wearing a pink jacket was seen being helped to put on woolly hat by a border official in the port, one of a number of children who have made the dangerous crossing in the last few days.

Thousands of people have continued to cross from France in 2021 despite the UK pledging to send millions of pounds to the French authorities to tackle the crisis.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, by Border Force officers (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“For now, not one euro has been paid,” Mr Darmanin told the Associated Press on Saturday.

“We are asking the British to keep their promises of financing because we are holding the border for them.”

He also called on Britain to take measures to reduce its “attractiveness” for migrants without residency papers, without elaborating.

Asked about Mr Darmanin’s comments on Sunday, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News: “Well, all I can say is that we have worked very effectively with the French government so far.

“We’ve had 300 arrests, we’ve worked with them to do that, there have been 65 convictions, and we both accept that there are something like 13,500 crossings that have been prevented through our working together, so it is a good collaborative relationship and we obviously want to improve that.”

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said Ms Patel “needs to come clean” over her strategy to tackle small boat crossings.

He told Sky News the fact that more than 1,100 people crossed to the UK in just two days across Friday and Saturday shows that withholding money from France “clearly isn’t working”.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
More than 1,000 people crossed the Channel in small boats on Friday and Saturday (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Dan O’Mahoney, Clandestine Channel Threat Commander for the Home Office, said: “The Government is determined to tackle the unacceptable rise in dangerous Channel crossings using every tool at our disposal, at every stage in the journey.

“Working with police and international partners, there have been nearly 300 arrests, 65 convictions related to small boat criminality, and our targeted efforts have prevented more than 13,500 migrant attempts so far this year.

“But this is a complicated issue requiring changes to our laws. The Government’s New Plan for Immigration provides a long-term solution to fix the broken system and deliver the change required to tackle criminal gangs and prevent further loss of life.”

Also on Sunday, a charity which observes migrants arriving in small boats across the English Channel said the consequences of using controversial pushback tactics could be “horrific”.

Kim Bryan, from Channel Rescue, said in the last two weeks her group had spotted, from the cliffs of Dover, Border Force officials practising a pushback using jet-skis.

“What they seem to be doing is pushing the boat from the stern and from the bow, and I guess the idea is they’re going to push them back into French waters,” Ms Bryan told BBC Breakfast on Sunday.

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