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Channel migrants: 235 people in 17 vessels stopped in one day


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Susan Pilcher

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A woman photographed in Dungeness, Kent, on Thursday appeared to be heavily pregnant

A total of 235 migrants were intercepted crossing the English Channel on Thursday, the Home Office confirmed – a record for a single day.

Among them was a group of 15, including children and a heavily pregnant woman, that landed on a Kent beach.

In total, 17 vessels were apprehended by The Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Border Force units.

On Friday, a boat with about 14 people on board including a pregnant woman and a child was spotted by the BBC.

Reporter Simon Jones said a kayak and other inflatable vessels had also been reported heading towards the Kent coast.

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Susan Pilcher

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Susan Pilcher said there appeared to be three family groups

Including Thursday’s total, 3,948 people have crossed the Channel in more than 300 boats so far this year.

The Home Office has not been able to supply a breakdown of genders or nationalities of those who were intercepted.

Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts Chris Philp said he shared “the anger and frustration of the public at the appalling number of crossings” on Thursday.

One of the vessels was carrying 26 people.

Eyewitness Susan Pilcher told the BBC she had seen three family groups on Dungeness beach, as well as two single men.

One woman appeared to be heavily pregnant, she said.

The French authorities said they had also rescued migrants from several kayaks in their own waters as they headed for the UK.

A helicopter was used in the response that saw at least 23 people intercepted and brought back to France.

Thursday’s figure breaks a record set only a week ago, when 202 people crossed in 24 hours.

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Susan Pilcher

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The Home Office no longer releases the number of child migrants arriving in the UK

Mr Philp said: “The crossings are totally unacceptable and unnecessary as France is a safe country.

“We work closely with France and I will be in Paris early next week to seek to agree stronger measures with them, including interceptions and returns.

“This situation simply cannot go on.”

He said the only option was to make the route “completely unviable” to deter people from attempting it.

Regarding reports the Navy could be used to patrol the Channel, Chancellor Rishi Sunak told Sky News: “I wouldn’t want to speculate on exactly what measures will be put in place.

“It’s important that we work closely with our French allies on this situation.

“Obviously France is a safe country for migrants to be, we all want to see these crossings reduced and, pending the outcomes of those conversations [in France] we can decide on the best next steps to take.”

Channel crossings by migrants in small boats

Number of people reaching the UK each month since July 2019

An inquiry has been launched into the reasons behind the huge increase in Channel crossings by migrants.

Among the areas the home affairs committee will examine are:

  • The role of criminal gangs in the crossings
  • The responses of UK and French authorities to combat illegal migration and support legal routes to asylum
  • The conditions experienced by people gathered in northern France seeking to enter the UK and the risks they face
  • Migrants’ treatment by UK authorities on their arrival, particularly that of unaccompanied children

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