Europe

Smuggler gangs treat migrants like human cargo

Migrants left stranded in engineless dinghy in the Channel

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The young child was early yesterday morning carried up a gangway towards a white processing tent on the quayside in Dover, above where two dozen dinghies were floating after being confiscated in previous crossings. Dozens of children were seen arriving aboard Border Force patrol vessels throughout the day as the total for this week alone edged towards 1,000 amid a “dangerous and unnecessary” rise in crossings. Home Secretary Priti Patel was under growing pressure last night to take a tougher stance with France amid claims she was “throwing good money off the boat” by giving Paris another £54million.

Paul Lincoln, director general of Border Force, told the committee that the number of French interceptions of small boats crossing the Channel had “trebled” in a year from more than 2,100 at the end of June last year to more than 6,000 for the same period this year.

Around 850 people are believed to have arrived in the UK this week – taking the annual total past 2020’s – with nearly 700 arriving on Monday and Tuesday alone. Overall, around 8,600 people have made the crossing.

Border Force appeared to have bolstered patrols along the Kent coast, with smaller vessels acting as scouts and larger boats, such as BF Hurricane, would be despatched to pick up larger numbers of migrants.

Just hours after the crying toddler was taken ashore in Dover, 50 migrants, including children, were picked up off the coast of Dungeness.

Among them were several families with young children, some of whom were being carried by their parents.

And the first family to depart from BF Hurricane was a man carrying his daughter who was too young to walk.

Downing Street yesterday attacked the “dangerous and unnecessary” surge in migrants and hit out at people-smuggling gangs “who treat people like human cargo”.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The current approach is not working.

“The rise in dangerous and unnecessary small boat crossing is totally unacceptable – that’s why we are taking action to fix the broken asylum system.

“We are changing the laws through the Nationality and Borders Bill to help protect lives and break the business model of the smuggling rings. We are also targeting the criminal gangs responsible for illegal crossings at every level.”

The MP for Calais, Pierre-Henri Dumont, yesterday appeared to dismiss Britain’s attempts to solve the crisis – despite growing anger over the lack of French action –insisting the migrants will “just find somewhere else to cross”.

Priti Patel has agreed to give France another £54million to stop the growing number of migrants crossing the Channel.

Patrols on French beaches will be doubled and aerial drone surveillance will be increased.

Mr Dumont told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The fact is, having more money, having more police, having more controls will not prevent more crossing attempts. We have too many kilometers of shore to monitor. They can hide in a lot of places, there are a lot of roads, woods and trees.

“So even if you are monitoring 100 per cent of a small or large part of the French coast the smugglers will find somewhere to cross somewhere else. If it’s not Calais they will go to Normandy, if not Normandy then Belgium or the Netherlands.”

But Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins believes Ms Patel’s “very significant agreement” with the French is likely to curb the number of migrants crossing the Channel from northern France.

“We know that the agreement that was reached in November has seen some 7,500 people being prevented from crossing the Channel, and so in doubling – as we have from last night – doubling the number of police officers that are patrolling the French coast, as well as investment, further investment in surveillance technology and other measures, we do believe that this will help to stem the flow of people seeking to make that very dangerous crossing.”

Police and Border Force were scrambled to a beach between Walmer and Kingsdo wn, north of Dover, after a boat landed mid-afternoon.

HM Coastguard confirmed they had “assisted Border Force today with an incident off the Kent coast, alongside Kent Police.”

But officials would not confirm if all of the migrants had been detained.

Marking a huge shift in tactics, Home Secretary Priti Patel said that 60 per cent of illegal arrivals came via Belgium.

Ms Patel said they have travelled across Continental Europe are amassing ‘along the entire French coastline’, not just in Calais.

Many of the migrants were seen carrying small plastic bags full of personal possessions.

Most of the adults were wearing jeans or long trousers with tops and jackets.

But a couple opted for t-shirts and shorts on account of the heatwave Britain is currently basking in

Border Force Patrol boat Hunter returned to the marina around three hours after the first arrival with around 30 people on board, including toddlers and young children.

A father carried his young child in a mustard coloured jumper in his arms with his wife a few yards behind as they were carefully escorted up the ramp of the pontoon by Border Force officers just before 11am.

All of the group wore orange lifejackets as they came ashore and were handed over to immigration authorities behind a metal screen.

Another young family of four including a child of around nine or 10 were also escorted up the gangway as well as young woman and men.

And two families with three children of primary school age wearing child-size red life jackets were also among the passengers brought ashore by Border Force.

One of the children was wearing a burgundy-coloured beanie hat.

It comes as a witness told the Daily Express how a group of migrants who successfully landed on the beach in Dungeness and took selfies in a joyous celebration.

Retired chef Tony Bonich, 70, said: ““My wife spotted the boat right on the horizon, and as it got closer and closer, it was behind that buoy, and we worked out they were using that buoy as a marker.

“They were coming right towards us. And it came right the way up.

“It was absolutely mental. We came down here for the peace and quiet and for the bird-watching.

“It’s gone crazy.

“One of them was waving at me. They got out and kind of plonked themselves down on the ridge of the beach, and then they got up and started filming themselves and taking pictures, selfies. That really p***** me off.

“It was celebratory.

“Because I was filming as they walked up the beach, one of them waved at me.”

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