At least 350 migrants have arrived in the UK after crossing the English Channel in the past two days, despite the British government’s new plan to fly thousands of asylum seekers to Rwanda.
One refugee charity cast doubt on the government’s assertion that its Rwanda plan will deter migrants from making clandestine boat journeys across the Channel from France.
More than 6,000 migrants have arrived in the UK on boats mainly organised by criminal gangs so far this year. That compares to more than 28,000 in 2021, and more than 8,000 in 2020.
The government has been under mounting pressure from Tory MPs to take action to halt the migrant arrivals, and last year 27 died when their boat foundered off France.
On Sunday, the Ministry of Defence said it had found seven boats carrying 254 migrants. Other witnesses said another 100 had arrived by early afternoon on Monday, according to the BBC.
There were no attempted Channel crossings in the past fortnight amid rough weather, according to government officials, but more gentle conditions have led to fresh efforts since the weekend.
Care4Calais, a charity group which works with migrants in Calais, said it had surveyed 60 of them and found 75 per cent stated they would not be deterred from crossing the Channel by the Rwanda plan.
Pierre Henri Dumont, France’s national assembly member for Calais, said the British government’s Rwanda scheme was unlikely to deter desperate refugees from trying to reach Britain.
“You leave your country because of war, because of starvation,” he told the BBC. “You are not afraid of being held and sent back to another country. At least if you have a chance, you will try.”
Prime minister Boris Johnson and Priti Patel, home secretary, unveiled the government’s plan last month to send “tens of thousands” of migrants seeking asylum in the UK to Rwanda.
The prime minister said anyone who had entered Britain through irregular means since January 1 and not sought asylum in a safe third country may be transported to the African nation and assessed there for eventual resettlement.
Ministers said at the time that the first migrants would be sent to Rwanda “within weeks” but none have been deported yet.
The Rwanda scheme has been condemned by opposition parties, charities and the Church of England.
The resumption of Channel crossings at the weekend comes after some Conservative MPs hailed the Rwanda plan as providing instant deterrence.
Andrew Bridgen, a backbench Tory MP, recently tweeted that the lack of Channel crossings in late April showed “Priti’s migrant policy is working already”.
Johnson also announced last month that the Ministry of Defence was taking over operational control of the government’s attempts to stop the Channel crossings from the Border Force.
The MoD said the latest rise in dangerous crossings was unacceptable: “Not only are they an overt abuse of our immigration laws but they also impact on the UK taxpayer, risk lives and our ability to help refugees come to the UK via safe and legal routes.”
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