UK

Channel migrants: Priti Patel to raise issue with France

Priti Patel Image copyright PA Media

Home Secretary Priti Patel will hold talks with her French counterpart after 64 migrants attempted to cross the Channel on Thursday.

The Home Office said five boats were intercepted off the Kent coast, while one landed on a Sussex beach.

French authorities also picked up a further two dinghies carrying a total of 19 adults, 10 children and a baby.

More than 900 people, including at least 80 children, have crossed the Channel in small boats this year.

A Home Office spokeswoman said crossing the Channel in a small boat is a "huge risk" and "the criminal gangs who perpetuate this are ruthless and do not care about loss of life."

She added: "We continue to monitor the ongoing situation and are working closely at all levels with French authorities on the issue."

"The home secretary will raise this issue with her French counterpart in the coming days."

On Friday, the Home Office updated its figures and confirmed 11 people were found after a boat landed on Winchelsea Beach, 37 were intercepted by Border Force while travelling in small boats across the Channel off the coast of Kent, and another 16 people in a small boat were escorted to the Kent shore by the RNLI.

Many of those intercepted said they were Iranian nationals and others said they were from Guinea, Kuwait, and the Ivory Coast.

Image copyright AFP/Marine Nationale
Image caption French authorities released this photo of migrants intercepted by its coast guards this month

The Home Office said 65 people who arrived illegally in the UK in small boats have been returned to European countries this year.

In December, Ms Patel's predecessor Sajid Javid declared the rising number of migrants attempting to cross the Channel in this way a "major incident".

The Home Office has three Border Force cutters in the Channel and coordinates with France to try to stop illegal attempts to cross the border.

Last month leaked footage obtained by the BBC showed a trial of long-range thermal imaging cameras which could be used to monitor migrant boats leaving France.

The Home Office refused to confirm if it planned to purchase the technology, which is similar to that used by US authorities at the Mexican border.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

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