More than 5,000 migrants reach UK by small boat in 2020

This is despite Home Secretary Priti Patel’s vow last year that the crossings would be an ‘infrequent phenomenon’ by now.

Migrant Channel crossing
Migrant Channel crossing

More than 5,000 migrants have crossed to the UK in small boats so far in 2020.

Numbers of people trying to reach British shores have surged in the summer months, prompting the Government to deploy RAF planes to the English Channel in an effort to tackle the problem.

This is despite Home Secretary Priti Patel’s vow last year that the crossings would be an “infrequent phenomenon” by now, and her recent pledge to make the route “completely unviable”.

On Friday she said that people smuggling “has to end”, saying that the recent jailing of a man who tried to bring an Afghan family into the UK “sends a clear signal”.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The milestone comes as French prosecutors investigate the death of a Sudanese migrant whose body was found on a beach in France earlier this week.

Meanwhile, campaigners claimed that migrants who had made the crossing had gone on hunger strike at a detention centre as they faced deportation next week.

Protesters are planning a demonstration outside the Home Office building in London on Sunday.

Recent attempts by the Government to put a stop to migrant crossings have included asking the armed forces for help and the appointment of a new “clandestine Channel threat commander”.

Meanwhile, the Government has called on councils to “take responsibility” as it urgently tries to find care for lone migrant children who have crossed the Channel to the UK.

High winds on Friday did not stop one group of five migrants making it to the UK by boat, according to the Home Office.

Late on Thursday an emotional plea for compassion for migrants, featuring NHS cleaner Hassan Akkad, was beamed on to the White Cliffs of Dover.

Several crossings in the last week have taken the number of migrants who have reached the UK by small boat this year to more than 5,000, analysis by the PA news agency showed.

More than 1,000 others are known to have been intercepted by French authorities as they tried to reach the UK.

Declared nationalities of migrants intercepted by Border Force have included: Iraqi, Iranian, Sudanese, Yemeni, Syrian, Eritrean, Kuwaiti, Tajikstani, Vietnamese, Guinean, Malian, Ethiopian, Turkish, Afghan, Palestinian, Sri Lankan, Egyptian, Ethiopian, Pakistani, Chadian, Somali, Togolese, Nigerian, Libyan, South Sudanese, Albanian and Chinese.

Dan O’Mahoney, the Home Office’s new clandestine Channel threat commander, returned to France on Thursday to continue discussions with officials in Paris and Calais in a bid to tackle the migrant crossings crisis.

Also on Friday, the Home Office announced that people smuggler 43-year-old Harjinder Singh Pannu from Hayes, Middlesex, has been jailed for three years.

He was stopped by Border Force in Coquelles, at the French entrance to the Eurotunnel and found to have three Afghan nationals in the boot of his Hyundai Tuscan hire car.

He told Border Force officers that he did not know how the father and two children, eight and five years of age, ended up in the vehicle.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Images released by the Home Office show the family of three squeezed into the boot of the car upon discovery by authorities.

Pannu was arrested on suspicion on assisting illegal entry into an EU member state and was later charged.

He was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison at Canterbury Crown Court on Monday.

Discussing the case today, Ms Patel said: “People smuggling by ruthless criminals intent on profiteering from vulnerable migrants has to end.

“We will do all we can to stop this cruel trade and keep the public safe.

“This case sends a clear signal to people smugglers – we will stop you, arrest you and bring you to justice.”

Around 10pm on Thursday the famous White Cliffs of Dover were lit up with a giant video of Mr Akkad, a Syrian refugee who crossed to Britain several years ago.

He highlighted the “terrifying and devastating” journeys so many people are making to reach the UK by boat, and blamed the Government for using the crisis as a distraction from the coronavirus pandemic.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The giant projection was the latest stunt from Led By Donkeys, a group of activists famed for their giant billboards of politicians’ tweets.

In the video, Mr Akkad said: “Hello everyone. Apologies for taking over the cliff but I have a few words that I would love to share with you.

“My name is Hassan and five years ago I was on the other side of this Channel trying to cross here.

“These cliffs were actually visible from our makeshift camp and they represented hope.”

He argued that Britain is not facing a refugee crisis, but the migrant crossings are being used as a distraction by the Government.

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