Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary has declared the increasing number of migrants crossing or attempting to cross the English Channel a major incident. Since the start of November 280 people have been intercepted attempting the crossing by French and UK authorities, but the rate has soared over recent days with 82 people intercepted since Christmas Eve alone. Calm weather and organised smuggling gangs increasing their activity over the festive period when Border Staff numbers are low are claimed to be behind the recent surge.
Charlie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, has urged British and French authorities to get a grip on the situation and has asked the Home Office to recall UK ships operating anti-trafficking operations in the Mediterranean to the English Channel after it was revealed the UK has just two Border Cutters to patrol the entire channel. Some have criticised government policy instead however, reiterating that the Border Force budget was cut from £617million from 2012-2013 to £565million in 2016-2017 and again in 2017-2018 to £552 million. Particular concerns relate to the pressure being placed on the volunteer RNLI in patrolling and intercepting migrants on the UK’s southern coast.
Even with calm weather any attempt to cross the Channel on the kind of cheap rubber dinghies that have been found so far is extremely dangerous. Just this morning individuals from an intercepted vessel were rushed to land and had to receive treatment for hypothermia. What makes this more alarming is the considerable number of children found in boats attempting the crossing in recent weeks. With freezing temperatures and the Channel being the busiest shipping lane in the world many are concerned that it is only a matter of time before a tragedy unless rapid action is taken. Sajid Javid has requested a call with his French counterpart later this week to talk of the growing issue.
We will keep you updated as this story develops.