Eustice grilled on 'irony' of French letting migrants cross channel
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The crossings continued yesterday, with a young child holding a cuddly toy and wearing just one wellington boot among the large numbers of people seen being brought ashore in Dover. Witnesses described another steady stream of arrivals for the second day in a row amid relatively calm and sunny conditions at sea. It comes a week after several migrants were feared to have been lost at sea while attempting the journey.
On Tuesday, UK authorities rescued or intercepted 456 people who had navigated busy shipping lanes from France in small boats.
According to data compiled by the PA news agency, prior to that at least 19,756 people had already reached the UK so far this year, bringing the total to more than 20,200.
This is more than double the total for the whole of 2020.
In 2019, Home Secretary Priti Patel promised to make migrant crossings an “infrequent phenomenon” by spring 2020 and then pledged in August last year to “make this route unviable”. During this time, the Government has agreed to pay France millions of pounds to increase security on its northern coast.
Campaigners and aid charities have repeatedly called on ministers to overhaul the asylum system in light of the soaring numbers.
Amnesty International UK’s chief executive Sacha Deshmukh said: “We need to remember that these dangerous crossings are taking place because the Government has provided no safe alternative for people to exercise their right to seek asylum here.
“If Priti Patel is truly concerned with tackling criminal gangs and their exploitation of people, she needs to set up safe asylum routes so people no longer need to depend on smugglers.”
Dan O’Mahoney, the Home Office’s Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, described the journey as “dangerous, unnecessary and facilitated by violent criminal gangs profiting from misery”, adding: “We are working with the French to stop boats leaving their beaches and crack down on the criminals driving these crossings.”
Last week Ms Patel described an incident in which as many as three people are thought to be unaccounted for after trying to cross from France to the UK in a dinghy as “appalling” and an “absolute tragedy”.
Two men – both Somali nationals – were rescued off the Essex coast near Harwich on October 25 and searches for another who was missing have now been called off.
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “The Home Secretary has been in post for over two years and has – repeatedly – committed to stopping Channel crossings in small boats by making the route ‘unviable’.
“Yet we have seen unprecedented numbers making the journey with a staggering 20,000 for this year alone. The Home Secretary’s approach has, once again, failed to deliver.”
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