A record number of migrants have been caught over the last 24 hours trying to cross the English Channel into the UK, according to Sky News.
On Friday, 8 May, over 140 migrants were reportedly picked up making the risk-fraught journey in 10 different vessels, including 50 people crammed into just one.
According to local news source, KentOnline, the inflatable boats in which the migrants were travelling were brought ashore to the port town of Dover.
“Border Force is currently dealing with a number of ongoing small boat incidents off the Kent coast. Further details will be provided", a Home Office spokesman told the news site.
Then, on Saturday, 9 May, at least five more boats carrying around 70 migrants tried to make the perilous voyage across the choppy English Channel. Operations to intercept the vessels kicked off at 4:30 a.m.
Sky News has been told that, “since the coronavirus lockdown began [in the UK] on 23 March, around 700 men, women, and children have been intercepted in small boats in British waters and on south coast beaches".
Despite the British government’s repeated warnings to migrants not to attempt the dangerous English Channel crossing, the number of those doing so has continued to climb. During one day back in February, around 102 migrants, including seven small children, were stopped mid-journey in the English Channel. At the time, that incident marked the largest number of attempted crossings in one day. It has now, however, been removed from the top spot by the incidents on 8-9 May.
Britain has been pressing France to do more to stem the flow of the illegal crossers, who often set sail from French territory. This week, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel is said to have had a telephone call with her French counterpart, Christophe Castaner, as it became apparent that the number of migrants reaching Britain’s shores after crossing the channel has already hit 1,200 this year, despite only being a little over four months into 2020. By contrast, a total of 1,900 migrants arrived in the UK by boat in 2019.
According to reports, during the telephone conversation with her French counterpart, Miss Patel attempted to convince France into taking back those migrants that are picked up on the British side of the channel. So far, the majority of those captured over the past 16 months have not been sent back to France.
A source close to Miss Patel told The Telegraph that, “if people know that they can't get across the Channel, they are less likely to congregate in the camps so it is a benefit to the French. It's not just in the interests of the UK".