UK Politics

Migrant crossings a ‘major incident’, government declares

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The home secretary has declared the rising number of migrants attempting to cross the English Channel a "major incident".

Sajid Javid announced he was seeking an urgent call with his French counterpart, after holding talks with Border Force officials and the National Crime Agency.

Two separate groups of migrants attempting to enter the UK by boat were picked up on Friday, totalling 12 people.

Some of them are being treated for hypothermia.

Dozens more migrants have been rescued in recent days, with the numbers described as "deeply concerning" by the government.

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Video: 'This is why migrants are coming ashore'

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

It added plans are being drawn up for possible solutions, including scrambling more boats to the coast.

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes will assess the situation during a visit to Border Force offices in Dover on Saturday.

Organised crime gangs are blamed for carrying out the crossings.

Officials intercepted 23 Iranians in the Channel on Thursday, including three children, and a further 43 people were picked up over Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Dover border force
Image: The immigration minister will visit Border Force offices in Dover

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Labour's shadow home secretary Diane Abbott has called for better cooperation with the French authorities.

She said: "We have a duty to those at risk in British waters, but we also have a duty to refugees many of whom are fleeing war poverty and persecution.

"Our focus needs to be much better cooperation with the French authorities, and European nations as a whole to create safe and legal routes for those seeking asylum.

"No-one should feel they have no option but to risk their lives in this way."

A former senior Home Office official has said smugglers are emboldened by the fact that UK lifeboats are rescuing travellers out at sea – with the rescuers then taking them on to dry land where the can claim asylum.

David Wood, who used to lead immigration enforcement, warned there could be a tragedy unless the government changed its policy to stop migrants coming rather than rescuing them and landing them in the UK.

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He said: "Britain's border force, coastguards and lifeboats are being used as a taxi service for migrants.

"As far as organised crime is concerned, it's de-risked their business."

Original Article