A record 180 people illegally crossed the English Channel in 15 separate boats on Sunday, the Home Secretary has confirmed, saying the situation “simply cannot be allowed to go on”.
Priti Patel was in France at the weekend signing a new joint intelligence agreement with the French Interior Minister, but while she headed towards the continent, some 400 migrants took to the water travelling in the other direction.
200 people were intercepted by French authorities and taken back to shore.
The previous one-day record was 166 on June 3, with a staggering 64 people on one boat.
The trigger for the mass-crossing is thought to be a huge police operation inside the makeshift migrant camps dotted around Calais.
More than 500 people were forcibly removed from the camps by riot police, who fired tear gas when they were pelted with rocks.
The migrants were taken to reception centres around Haut de France in one of the biggest operations since the learout of the so-called Calais “jungle” in 2016.
This, combined with good weather, calm seas and a lack of other viable transport across the Channel because of the coronavirus crisis meant that migrants flocked to the water.
On Monday four more small boats were brought to Dover with around 30 people believed to be on board.
French authorities have conducted a large scale forced eviction of Calais refugees as they slept in their tents. Shelters, sleeping bags and possessions were destroyed in what may be the biggest clearance since 2016. https://t.co/yT9Cuz0zaX— Care4Calais (@Care4Calais) July 10, 2020
Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, a volunteer-run refugee charity told the Telegraph: "The brutality of the evictions we have seen this weekend can only increase people’s desire to escape the horrific living conditions in Calais.
“These evictions are not an effective way to discourage people from coming to Calais; following the same approach for years has very clearly shown no results. What is needed is a safe and legal way for people’s asylum claims to be fairly assessed.
“This would break the business model of people smugglers and instead create a humane and modern way to end the chaos at our border."
Priti Patel said on Sunday: “I have been in France today seeing first-hand the significant work undertaken on that side of the Channel to address the unacceptably high levels of small boats, alongside the efforts of Border Force and the National Crime Agency in the UK.
“But despite all of the action taken by law enforcement to date - intercepting the boats, making arrests, returning people to France and putting the criminals responsible behind bars - the numbers continue to increase.
“This simply cannot be allowed to go on. Today, I have signed an agreement with the French to create a joint intelligence cell which will crack down on the gangs behind this vile people smuggling operation and impressed on my French counterpart the need to stop these illegal crossings for the benefit of both our countries. This is the start of a new operational approach with the newly appointed French Interior Minister.”