Tuesday, April 23, 2024
HomeNewsAction needed as Channel ‘boat people’ reach record numbers

Action needed as Channel ‘boat people’ reach record numbers


THE number of immigrants arriving here illegally in small boats crossing the Channel has reached record levels since the coronavirus lockdown was ordered in March.

Without decisive action by the UK and French governments, the situation can only get worse, says a new report by Migration Watch UK. 

During this two-month period more than 800 have been recorded entering via this unauthorised and dangerous route. This week alone a record 150 were intercepted trying to get to the UK in the space of 24 hours. 

Many of them hail from Iran, according to the National Crime Agency, which said some were motivated by the opportunity to ‘join a thriving Iranian diaspora’ in the UK.

Of the 2,500 arrivals detected between January 2019 and early April this year, only 155, or 6 per cent of the total, were returned to the continent.

Unlike in previous years, many of the attempts to enter the UK illegally from Northern Europe are no longer clandestine but intentionally open, with the aim of being ‘intercepted’ by the UK authorities and taken to a UK port where as many as 90 per cent will claim asylum.  

Criminals exploit the gaps and weaknesses in our immigration and asylum regimes to pile people into flimsy craft in return for huge sums of money. Migrants leave safe and prosperous countries (France and Belgium) and risk their lives with assurances that they will be ‘rescued’ and given asylum in the UK. Intelligence suggests that some migrants have paid up to £12,000 for transport from Dunkirk in rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIBs).

At the same time there has been a wider collapse in removals of those with no right to be here, including of failed asylum seekers, as part of a growing paralysis in immigration enforcement in the wake of the Windrush affair, something that is likely to be spurring even more crossings.

According to Home Office data, the number of enforced removals of failed asylum seekers fell to just 1,807 in 2018, compared with 2,722 the previous year. In 2004 the number was 11,743. 

There is an urgent need for decisive government action to turn this around. Fifty-seven per cent of the public believe those who arrive here illegally should be removed, against 36 per cent who think the opposite, while 77 per cent have said illegal immigration is a serious problem facing the country.

Migration Watch believes the government should:

Provide a major boost in funding for immigration enforcement;

Give Immigration Compliance and Enforcement Teams more support and determined leadership. Those at the sharp end must have their confidence restored;

Substantially increase the number of removals of those with no right to be here, including failed asylum seekers;

Negotiate a new agreement with the French and Belgian governments toreturn immediately all those attempting to cross the Channel illegally to their setting-off points.

The government have had 18 months to deal with the problem of illegal Channel crossings in small boats. Thus far, a solution has not only proved elusive but the situation seems to be getting worse. The time for decisive action cannot be ducked any longer. With the public in a pandemic lockdown, it is surely not expecting too much for them to be confident that their borders are secure.

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Alp Mehmet
Alp Mehmet
Chairman of Migration Watch UK, former British diplomat.

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