More than 4,000 migrants reach UK by small boats in 2020

More than 4,000 migrants have now reached the UK in 2020 by crossing the English Channel in small boats.

Families with young children have been among hundreds of people arriving in Dover in the last few days as the political row over the crisis has intensified.

While South East England basked in roasting sunshine on Saturday, another 151 migrants arrived in the UK after crossing the dangerous Dover Strait.

The Home Office has officially asked the Royal Navy for help and a former Royal Marine has been appointed “clandestine Channel threat commander”.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
A Border Force vessel brings a group of people thought to be migrants into Dover, Kent (Yui Mok/PA)

As numbers of migrants attempting the perilous sea journey continue to rise, the Government has been accused of being “increasingly chaotic” in its handling of the crisis.

More migrants have reached the UK on Sunday, with Border Force cutter Seeker roaming British waters.

Up to 12 people were seen being brought ashore in Dover earlier this morning aboard patrol boat Speedwell.

The coastguard said it is co-ordinating search and rescue efforts in response to “a number of incidents” off the coast of Kent.

French authorities are also active in the English Channel today.

After a surge in crossings in the latter part of this week, the number of migrants who have reached the UK in 2020 in small boats is now more than 4,100, analysis by the PA news agency shows.

So far in August more than 650 have successfully reached British shores via the dangerous Channel route.

Most of that number came between Thursday and Saturday, with at least 532 migrants arriving in the UK.

A Border Force vessel brings a group of people thought to be migrants into Dover, Kent
Numbers of migrants attempting the perilous sea journey continue to rise (Yui Mok/PA)

This comes despite Home Secretary Priti Patel’s vow last year that the crossings would have become an “infrequent phenomenon” by now.

She has recently sought to level blame at her counterparts on the continent as she revealed the UK and French governments were locked in a row over the interpretation of maritime law.

Yesterday it was announced that Ms Patel has tasked former Royal Marine Dan O’Mahoney with delivering her ambition of making the English Channel “unviable” for migrants in small boats.

Bridget Chapman, spokeswoman for the Kent Refugee Action Network, said: “The Government’s handling of this issue is becoming increasingly chaotic, with elements of sabre-rattling.

“Nothing they have done so far has worked. They have spent millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money fortifying the port at Calais, have increased patrols in the Channel, and are now escalating a failing strategy by calling in the military to deal with a humanitarian situation.

“Priti Patel has said that she wants to make the Channel ‘unviable’ for people attempting to cross. But what is unviable is her approach.”

Ms Chapman called for Ms Patel and her French counterparts to offer people a safe and legal route to the UK.

She added: “That would close this route overnight, would save lives, and we would know exactly who was arriving and when.”

Bella Sankey, director of charity Detention Action, told PA: “Behind these record statistics are human beings – men, women and children – with heartbreaking stories of persecution and desperation.

“The Home Secretary’s response is one of manufactured outrage and lacks compassion, common sense and competence.

“A safe and legal route would end these dangerous crossings overnight and continue the UK’s proud history of doing right by those seeking sanctuary.”

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke has been calling for migrants to be returned to France irrespective of whether they are picked up in British or French waters.

She said on Twitter: “With a record number of people illegally crossing this year, all options need to be on the table.

“But whether it’s the Navy or whoever, dinghies should be returned to France, and the French need to stop boats leaving French shores in the first place.”

Amnesty International UK hit out at plans to deploy the Royal Navy to the English Channel, saying that doing so to prevent people crossing to seek asylum would be “unlawful, reckless and dangerous”.

The organisation’s refugee and migrant rights programme director Steve Valdez-Symonds said: “What is needed is co-operation with France to share responsibility for providing a place of safety, including the UK Government reuniting families and enabling more people to travel safely to make asylum claims in this country.

“But while ministers beat their chests, the real and immediate needs of women, men and children fleeing war and persecution are being ignored.”