Pressure rises for new British PM as migrant Channel crossings hit new record

REUTERS - MATTHEW CHILDS

More than 1,100 people crossed the Channel from France to England in small boats at the weekend, new British figures show. Former foreign secretary Liz Truss, who takes over from Boris Johnson as Prime Minister on Tuesday, has promised to take a hardline against irregular migration.

The UK Ministry of Defence said 1,160 migrants were detected in 25 boats in the 24 hours to midnight on Sunday, after 960 made the journey on Saturday.

The arrivals take the number of people having made the crossing this year to 27,384, nearly as many for the whole of 2021 when 28,526 were intercepted.

It is also the second time in two weeks that over 1,000 people have been picked up in a single day. A record 1,295 were brought ashore on 22 August.

New leadership

Irregular migration is a thorny political issue for the UK government, which promised to tighten borders after the country left the European Union.

It is also an major bone of contention between London and Paris, as the French northern coastline is the prime point of departure for most of the migrants.

The Channel is one of the world's busiest shipping routes. French authorities said over the weekend they had to rescue more than 500 people since Friday.

The incoming British prime minister Liz Truss, had already promised a hardline against illegal immigration prior to her winning the vote to become leader of the Conservative Party on Monday.

“It is an absolute priority to make sure we deal with the issue of small boats and the appalling trade by people traffickers," she said at a campaign event last month, adding she would ask the Royal Navy to continue playing a role in controlling migrant crossings.

Rwanda resettlement scheme

Under former conservative prime minister Boris Johnson, the UK government gave the Ministry of Defence £50m in April to take charge of the crisis.

This included an 80-metre offshore patrol vessel to support Border Force interceptions, along with six fast training boats, three rigid-hulled inflatables and a Wildcat helicopter.

The vessels were first used in Operation Isotope at the same time Johnson unveiled plans to deport Channel migrants to Rwanda to claim asylum in the central African state and break the people-smugglers’ business.

However, legal challenges prevented the deportation of the first batch of failed asylum seekers in June but the government has said it is undeterred.

Some asylum seekers, as well as the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS,) whose members would have to implement the removals, and groups like Detention Action in support migrants are now challenging the measure.

The High Court in London is studying internal government concerns about Rwanda's human rights record.

At an earlier hearing, judges were told there was concern about whether the policy would be enough of a deterrent for people trying to get to the UK.

(With AFP)