UK: Over 1,000 Illegal Boat Migrants Brought Ashore During ‘Lockdown’

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More than 1,000 illegal boat migrants have reached British shores since the country introduced a national lockdown in March, with people-smugglers taking advantage of the coronavirus to traffic increased amounts of unaccompanied minors.

On Saturday, 90 migrants claiming to hail from Algeria, Libya, Eritrea, Sudan, and Senegal were brought ashore at Dover after crossing the English Channel in small boats from France — a safe, first world country.

The crossings brought the number of illegal migrants known to have successfully made it to Britain during the lockdown to 1,064.

The Immigration Officers’ Union told The Telegraph that during the coronavirus crisis the French government has reduced border patrols in favour of using officers to enforce the French lockdown.

Other reasons for the spike in illegal crossings include the recent spate of warm weather, calm seas, and reduced shipping traffic in the Channel.

The British government has come under increased scrutiny for its failure to protect the nation’s borders while imposing a lockdown on its own citizens. The Home Office was reportedly striking a deal with France that would allow British ships to patrol French waters and send back migrants, rather than taking them ashore in England and given the opportunity to apply for asylum.

However, that was not the case for the 90 migrants on Saturday.

Migration Watch UK, a leading think tank, said: “The biggest incentive for those attempting dangerous Channel crossings is the knowledge that being picked up by a British Border Force vessel or managing to set foot on our soil provides a strong chance of a permanent stay.”

“One way to neutralise this would be UK and French government agreement that anyone intercepted, whether in the Channel or on reaching UK shores, will be returned immediately to France where any application for asylum could be made. Ultimately, it would be in French interests to prevent such departures,” the mass migration sceptic group suggested.

The spike in migrant boat crossings has coincided with an increased amount of migrants claiming to be unaccompanied minors making the dangerous journey from France. Last week alone at least 20 alleged minors were picked up in small rubber dinghies by the British Border Force.

People-smugglers in Calais have reportedly lowered the fees they charge migrants to cross the Channel down to £1,500 per person, compared to £3,000 last year. As a result, more migrants from poorer countries are attempting to cross. It has also incentivised more minors to make the journey — with some fearing that they are being trafficked into sexual slavery.

“It’s rare to have children on this route and even more so to have unaccompanied minors,” Lucy Moreton of the Immigration Services Union told The Times.

“It’s a route that costs a lot of money. Somebody has paid for these children to be put at risk. It’s important to identify the individuals… and to ensure that [minors] are not being trafficked into a worse situation,” Moreton added.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage warned that “the invasion is on” in reference to the recent surge in migrant crossings.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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