The British government promises to crack down on a “scary” new wave of illegal immigration that has seen hundreds of migrants cross the English Channel in small boats – and the government is urging France to do more to stop the crossings.
“The number of illegal small boat crossings is alarming and unacceptably high,” Home Secretary Priti Patel said in a statement. “The numbers are shameful.”
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At least 235 migrants in 17 boats landed or were picked up by the British Coast Guard and Border Force boats on Thursday, surpassing last week̵
Patel, an immigrant for immigration in the government of Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said the government was working both to stop the boats leaving France, but also to catch and return those making the crossings.
However, in his statement, Patel warned that the issue was “complex” and faced “serious legislative, legal and operational obstacles”.
Consecutive British governments have for decades struggled with the flow of illegal immigration across the canal, both from migrants traveling by boat and those trying to smuggle through ports of entry in the backs of trucks and other vehicles.
Immigration activists have said that many migrants have legitimate reasons to go to the country and the government should offer legal ways to get there safely.
Brexit party leader Nigel Farage has tried to draw attention to the increase in migrants landing on British shores for weeks, publishing videos of the boats and examining hotels where migrants are reportedly accommodated.
The summer weather has led to an influx of those who want to make the crossings. The canal itself is about 200 km at its narrowest point.
Patel also said the government needed French cooperation to capture the boats and return the migrants to France. The Daily Mail reported that the government is considering using the Royal Navy to stop the crisis.
The British Daily Telegraph reports that French authorities stop ships, but if migrants threaten to jump into the water, they withdraw because the preservation of life is a priority. They then shadow the migrants to make sure they arrive in the UK safely.
Last month, Patel and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin agreed to set up a joint intelligence unit to stop the smugglers helping migrants make their way to Britain.
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Parliamentary Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the BBC on Friday that the immigration minister will be in France next week to “increase our co-operation efforts with our French allies.”
The Telegraph reported that more than 3,000 migrants have reached the UK this year, compared to 1,892 for the whole of 2019.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.