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Patel: No new target date for migrant crossings to be ‘infrequent phenomenon’

The Home Secretary was asked about her aim in 2019 to cut Channel crossings by spring this year.

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(Gareth Fuller/PA)

(Gareth Fuller/PA)

(Gareth Fuller/PA)

There is no new target for when illegal migrant crossings should have become an “infrequent phenomenon”, the Home Secretary has said.

Priti Patel said the crossings are a “complicated issue” and the English Channel has become “far too viable for criminals”.

Less than a year ago she vowed “urgent action” on the dangerous crossings, aiming for them to be virtually eradicated by spring this year.

But at least 2,324 migrants have crossed to the UK in the first six months of 2020, analysis by the PA news agency reveals.

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(Prefecture Maritime de la Manche/PA)

(Prefecture Maritime de la Manche/PA)

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(Prefecture Maritime de la Manche/PA)

The journey across the world’s busiest shipping lanes has been attempted in all manner of small boats, from inflatable dinghies to kayaks.

More migrants succeeded in reaching UK shores on Tuesday, the Home Office confirmed.

A boat carrying 10 males was intercepted by Border Force on Tuesday morning, with all individuals taken to Dover.

A man has also been arrested on suspicion of assisting unlawful entry into the UK.

Speaking exclusively to PA on Monday afternoon, the Home Secretary said there are “far too many crossings”.

She was asked if there was a new target date for the crossings to be reduced to an “infrequent phenomenon” – a reference to her pledge in 2019.

Ms Patel replied: “No. The fact of the matter is, I’ve said from day one this is a complicated issue. Illegal migration has been a feature of every single Government.

“The fact of the matter is, and I have repeatedly said this, when it comes to small boats in particular that is a route that has become far too viable for criminals.”

Since the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown was announced on March 23, at least 1,946 migrants have crossed to the UK.

The Home Office has repeatedly said coronavirus has had no impact on its ability to respond to migrant crossings.

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(Gareth Fuller/PA)

(Gareth Fuller/PA)

PA

(Gareth Fuller/PA)

The English Channel is home to dangerous waters and high winds, making migrant crossings extremely dangerous.

Ms Patel added: “Camps in Calais, northern France has become a magnet basically for criminals to come in, facilitate people trafficking and that’s why we have to work with the French authorities to get on top of this and stop this.”

Tony Smith, the former head of UK Border Force, told PA last week that the only way to stop the crossings was for the UK and France to agree a deal whereby migrants picked up in the Channel would be returned to France.

Asked if he had confidence in Ms Patel to obtain such a deal from the French, Mr Smith said: “I don’t know, is the short answer to that.”

Bridget Chapman, spokeswoman for Kent Refugee Action Network, said: “The Government has tried making this journey more and more difficult over the last few years and it hasn’t stopped people coming.

“We call on them to provide safe and legal passage for those seeking sanctuary in the UK. This would stop the dinghies overnight and would mean we knew exactly who was arriving and when.”

Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action, said: “If the Home Secretary is serious about reducing the number of refugees crossing the Channel in boats, she must create more ways for people to safely and legally find sanctuary in the UK.

“There has been no progress on this since her appointment, and several steps in the opposite direction.

“One priority must be a long-term commitment to resettle 10,000 refugees a year from overseas, in 2021 and beyond.”

PA