Channel migrants: Home secretary declares major incident

  28 December 2018    Read: 992
Channel migrants: Home secretary declares major incident

The rising number of migrants attempting to cross the Channel in small boats has been declared a "major incident" by the UK home secretary.

Sajid Javid has asked for an urgent call with his French counterpart about the situation.

The Home Office said there was "concern that it is only a matter of time before people lose their lives".

It comes after at least 221 migrants have attempted to cross the Channel to England since the start of November.

Most recently, 12 people were detained off the coast of Dover in the early hours of Friday morning.

In a statement, the Home Office said Mr Javid had "taken control of the response to the rising number of migrants attempting to cross the Channel in small boats".

Mr Javid has been appointed "gold commander" - meaning he has ultimate responsibility for the handling and outcome of the incident and sets out a strategy of how to deal with it.

He will now receive daily updates from the Home Office, and has spoken to Border Force officials, Immigration Enforcement and the National Crime Agency in a conference call.

The Home Office added: "The home secretary has also asked for an urgent call with his French counterpart over the weekend to reaffirm the continuing need for the UK and France to work closely together to tackle the problem.

"He has also commissioned detailed options from Border Force about the provision of additional vessels in the Channel, including another Border Force cutter, and whether this is likely to encourage more people to try and make the crossing rather than act as a deterrence."

Bridget Chapman, from the charity Kent Refugee Action Network, said the situation was in part a result of UK measures to "beef up the security around Calais".

"We've put a big fence up to prevent people from accessing trains and lorries and people are resorting to other methods to get here," she told the BBC.

"It's winter, but the weather has been quite good. And I expect people traffickers are exploiting people, saying, 'You know, things are going to tighten up after Brexit, you need to go now.'"

Many of the migrants are Syrian or Iranian. More than five million Syrians have left their country since its civil war started in 2011.

Earlier, Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said the number of incidents over recent days was "deeply concerning" and crossing the water in a dinghy was "extremely dangerous".

 

BBC


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