LONDON (AP) – The British government vowed yesterday to strengthen border measures after a record daily number of people crossed the English Channel to the United Kingdom (UK) in small boats.
At least 235 migrants in 17 boats landed or were picked up by British Coast Guard and Border Force boats on Thursday, surpassing last week’s record of 202 arrivals in one day.
Migrants have long used northern France as a launching point to reach Britain, either in trucks through the Channel tunnel or on ferries. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the UK’s strong economy and need for farm and restaurant labour drew migrants from around the world who could speak some English.
Some have turned to small boats organised by smugglers because lockdowns have reduced opportunities to stow away on ferries and trucks. Fine summer weather is also prompting more people to make the risky sea crossing – about 32 kilometres at its narrowest point – in vessels as small as dinghies and kayaks.
Britain’s Conservative government has called on French officials to do more to force boats in the Channel back to France.
They said France is a safe country and there is no reason migrants should travel from there to the UK.
Just last month, British Home Secretary Priti Patel and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin agreed to set up a French-British intelligence unit to crack down on what Patel called “gangs behind vile people smuggling”.