Some 49% of Britons don’t sympathise with the thousands of migrants who have been making the dangerous journey across the English Channel in small boats, according to a new poll.
A YouGov survey carried out on Tuesday found 27% of British adults have “no sympathy at all”, with 22% of people having “not much sympathy”.
More than 4,000 people have crossed the Channel from France to the UK this year, with at least 597 arriving between Thursday and Sunday alone.
On the other hand, the YouGov survey of 3,163 people also showed 44% do sympathise: 19% “a great deal” and 25% “a fair amount”.
The data demonstrates a divide between age groups. For example, 32% of people aged between 18 and 49 in the survey had “no sympathy at all”, compared to 69% of people over 50.
A divide is also visible when it comes to political affiliation, with 42% of Conservative voters having “no sympathy at all”, compared to 9% of Labour voters.
The poll came as immigration minister Chris Philp promised a “new, comprehensive action plan” to stem the latest surge in Channel crossings after talks with French officials.
Philp, speaking in Paris, said the “sheer numbers” crossing the Channel were “completely unacceptable” to both the French and UK governments.
He did not comment on the details of the new plan, only saying both countries had “renewed and reaffirmed their absolute commitment to make sure this border is properly policed and this route is completely ended”.
Meanwhile, asylum seekers are launching a legal challenge to halt their deportation after arriving in the UK by crossing the Channel.
Up to 20 people were due to be put on a charter flight to France and Germany on Wednesday, according to campaigners. It is thought to be the first removal planned since the coronavirus lockdown.
The Duncan Lewis law firm said it is representing 15 people from Iran, Yemen, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan who have “strong claims for asylum and real reasons for wanting to stay in the UK” but have been told they are being deported.
Many have mental health problems and some have been identified as victims of torture, sexual assault and trafficking, according to lawyers.
Lily Parrott, one of the solicitors representing some of the migrants, said: “Whether the government likes it or not, under British and international law people are allowed to migrate for the purpose of seeking asylum – even if it means they have to use ‘irregular’ routes.
Read more: More children likely to risk Channel crossing to reunite with relatives under new rules, charity warns
“The government’s suggestion that they cannot is just wrong, and an abuse of power.”
The Home Office said it was unable to comment on ongoing legal proceedings, but a spokeswoman added: “We want to see migrants who have illegally and dangerously crossed the Channel returned to mainland Europe.”