United Kingdom immigration officials have detained and tested nearly 100 migrants attempting to enter the country on Wednesday amid the coronavirus outbreak, the Daily Mail reports.
Five boats carrying 84 migrants, some of which were seen wearing face-masks, were seized in English Channel in the early morning according to the report, and were subsequently moved to the Port of Dover for processing and testing.
An extra 14 people were rescued by French officials when their dinghy was sighted by a French Navy helicopter going adrift after they departed from the coastal town of Boulogne-sur-Mer.
A dozen men and two minors were discovered to be suffering from mild hypothermia and they were brought back to returned to France.
The capture comes as Bishop Paul McAleenan has urged the government and the Catholic community keep migrants and refugees in mind during the coronavirus pandemic and to suspend policies requiring some migrants to report at immigration centres or police stations.
"In supporting the Government's recommendations to curtail the spread of COVID-19 the Church keeps in mind migrants and refugees. We must never forget that they are included among the vulnerable," he said.
"I ask those who through policy and through charity can make a difference to the lives of others, not to neglect the well-being of migrants and refugees when thinking about Covid-19", he added.
However, Dover and Deal MP Natalie Elphicke, demanded action after Border Force officers detained and tested the migrants for Covid-19 after their boats were intercepted.
She said it is "not right" that migrants are reportedly being examined for Coronavirus using limited British resources, which she said should be reserved for frontline workers.
Today a flotilla of five craft and well over 80 illegal migrants arrived at Dover.— Natalie Elphicke MP (@NatalieElphicke) March 25, 2020
Reports say illegal migrants are being tested on arrival and then released to the immigration authorities.
If so, that’s simply not right
Migrant camps in northern France around cities like Calais, home to around 1,000 people, are primary locations for thee spread of the pandemic., The Daily Mail reports.
“We are concerned that if refugees catch the virus they will be particularly vulnerable due to existing poor health from living outside and exposure, the prevalence of chest infections, poor living conditions and general lack of care”, says the charity group Care4Calais.
Labour frontbencher Diane Abbott tweeted that she raised the question of migrants as they are most at risk during coronavirus epidemic, following the report.
— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) March 25, 2020
France has 22,637 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Wednesday. The UK has reported 8,317, according to Johns Hopkins University.