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Migrants attempt to cross the English Channel to reach the UK Migrants attempt to cross the English Channel to reach the UK   (AFP or licensors)

Desperate migrants drift to Britain

As European nations are increasingly closing their borders to migrants fleeing war, persecution, and poverty, details have emerged about desperate people trying to cross the English Channel on makeshift rafts.

By Stefan J. Bos

British and French officials say, men, women, and children are using increasingly desperate measures to reach Britain. In the latest case, four migrants tried to cross the English Channel on a makeshift raft made from two windsurfing boards tied together. They were using shovels as paddles.

The migrants were spotted in difficulty by a ferry operator off Calais in the early morning hours local time. They managed to return safely to France after the coastguard was alerted.

The British Home Office also revealed that three further vessels carrying a total of 40 migrants did manage to reach British waters, and were brought to Dover.

Among them a group of 11 men and four women who presented themselves as Iranian and Iraqi nationals. They were intercepted by a Border Force early Wednesday.

Another vessel was carrying ten men and five women, who said they were Iranian, Afghani and Syrian nationals, was intercepted about 45 minutes later. And a boat was discovered carrying ten men who said they were from Iran, Yemen, and Syria.

Interviews held

They were all brought to Dover and transferred to immigration officials for interviews. But for many, their journey will end where it began: in France, which has been struggling to cope with migrants fleeing war, persecution, and poverty.

The French authorities stopped about 35 individuals from making the crossing on Wednesday. But it seemed a small number compared to the at least nearly 1,500 migrants who authorities claim crossed to Britain while the nation was in a coronavirus lockdown.

In a record for a single day, 166 migrants reportedly arrived off the Kent coast in seven small boats on June 3. Officials say the total for 2020 so far is now more than 1,900.

Earlier, the fiercely anti-migration politician Nigel Farage traveled offshore to film an overcrowded dinghy bring handed over to the British Border Force. "You can see the boat is absolutely packed. All of them have been charged a minimum of 5,000 euro each by the criminal gangs to make this crossing," he said, speaking from a boat.

Nearly sinking

"You can't believe when you see how close the water is to the edge.  I mean how massively overcrowded this is. We could put them on the tow. But there is no point because we know the border force is on its way from Dover, so we just kind of keep guard here," Farage added.    

However, Britain's Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts, Chris Philp, said in a statement that France had stopped more than 500 migrants from crossing the Channel in April.

He stressed there is close cooperation with France.

To ensure that human smugglers using misery to make money, who he called "ruthless criminals" would face justice.


11 June 2020, 14:38