Dozens of migrants detained by Border Force after crossing the Channel

Migrant flashes ‘V for victory’ sign as he is among another 30 would-be refugees delivered to UK shore by Border Force vessel in first Channel crossings for 10 days

  • Pictures show group of around 30 men being brought into the harbour in Dover
  • The group arrived this morning – the first for more than a week after bad weather
  •  It comes three weeks after 27 people died trying to reach the UK via the channel

A migrant was pictured flashing the V for victory sign as he was among a group of men detained by Border Force and delivered to UK shores after making the perilous crossing across the English Channel.  

The group of around 30 men were brought into the harbour at the Port of Dover in Kent this morning on board the Border Force vessel Hurricane – the first to make it UK waters in more than a week due to bad weather at sea.

They were led up a gangway from the pontoon to the immigration processing facility Tug Haven.

They are the first to make the crossing since December 5 due to bad weather conditions in the channel when 100 people were picked up by Border Force officers in three boats.

So far this year, more than 26,000 migrants have reached Britain since the start of the year, compared with just 8,410 in the whole of 2020. 

Pictured: A group of around 30 men were brought into the harbour at the Port of Dover in Kent this morning on board the Border Force vessel Hurricane after making the perilous journey

The migrants were the first group in more than a week to cross the channel due to bad weather

And it comes three weeks since 27 people died trying to reach the UK across the 21-mile wide Dover Straits after their inflatable dinghy sank off Calais on November 24.

It was the worse loss of life seen in the Channel since the migrant crisis began.

French authorities have formally identified 26 of the 27 bodies recovered after the tragedy.

A total of 16 Kurdish people from Iraq and four Afghans were among the victims, whose families are being informed.

On Tuesday French officials revealed five people had to be rescued after their boat got into trouble off Calais.

The French navy hydrographic vessel Lapérouse was dispatched to rescue the group who were brought ashore at Calais where they are taken care of by border police.

It comes three weeks after 27 people died trying to cross the channel when their dinghy sank

 

Meanwhile on December 10, a fishing vessel unfortunately discovered a body in its nets off Calais.

The vessel immediately reported this discovery to French coastguard officers.

The fishing vessel then made its way to the port of Calais so that the body could be taken care of by the Calais maritime gendarmerie.

The prosecutor’s office of Boulogne-sur-Mer opened an investigation which was entrusted to the maritime gendarmerie.

So far this year 26,711 migrants have been detained after reaching the UK in small boats compared to 8,410 in 2020. 

Yesterday, the National Crime Agency warned that gangs are turning to ever more dangerous and rickety boats to sneak desperate refugees across to the UK.

Officers said people smugglers are using custom-made inflatable dinghies with plywood floors and held together with gaffer taper to transport as many migrants across the Channel as possible.

Pictured: Inflatable boats believed to have been used by migrants that cross the channel

The National Crime Agency has warned that inflatable dinghies are being custom made for people smuggling gangs to transport as many people across the Channel as possible. Pictured, migrants and a dinghy used to cross on the beach at Dungeness, on November 24

In recent months, larger inflatables, sometimes more than 30ft long, have been used in the cruel human trade.

Investigators believe many of these large grey or black unbranded vessels have little or no commercial use and are being purposefully manufactured for people smugglers.

What happens to migrants after they arrive in the UK? 

Migrants who have been picked up after landing or intercepted at sea are taken to a Border Force processing centre, usually near Dover 

Here arrivals are triaged to identify any medical needs or vulnerabilities, fed and checked to see if they have a criminal record. Adults have an initial interview before being sent to accommodation centre across Britain, paid for by UK taxpayers and provided by private contractors.

The migrants are given £37.75 per week for essentials like food, clothes and toiletries while they wait for a decision on their asylum application. Kent County Council normally takes unaccompanied children into its care, although other local authorities are also involved in this programme.

Other migrants might be kept in a detention centre ahead of a plan to send them back to Europe. However, just five were deported last year as ministers admitted to ‘difficulties’. 

While a member of the EU, Britain was part of the Dublin Regulation, an EU-wide deal that required migrants to apply for asylum in the first member state they arrive in and could be deported back to that country if they moved on to another.

However, since Brexit there has been no formal arrangements to allow migrants to be deported to France or another EU member country.  

Other boats are also being adapted or improvised using substandard materials in a bid to increase the amount of people they can carry and make them more solid.

Martin Grace, head of organised immigration crime operations for the NCA, said: ‘It is clear to us that with some of the boats being used there is little or no genuine commercial use for them.

‘They are likely being manufactured and sold online for the sole purpose of being used for people smuggling, and this is now something we are focusing on.’

The NCA said a high percentage of attempted Channel crossings are still facilitated by organised criminal gangs – some operating a sophisticated network, while others are less established.

In November, the NCA worked alongside French police as part of an operation to dismantle a gang supplying boats that could carry between 40 and 60 people.

The group were also recruiting migrants from camps in northern France to travel in the dangerous vessels.

In total 18 people were arrested in the Calais, Le Havre and Paris regions of France, the NCA said.

Dan O’Mahoney, Home Office clandestine Channel threat commander, said: ‘The recent tragedy in the Channel is a devastating reminder of the dangers of Channel crossings choreographed by organised crime groups who are profiteering from these deadly and unnecessary Channel crossings.

‘We work closely with our European and international partners and police, hand-in-glove, day in, day out to arrest, investigate and prosecute organised criminals, preventing numerous departures and saving lives.

‘But this is a complicated issue and we are determined to do all we can to work with the NCA to tackle criminal gangs and prevent further loss of life.’

The NCA alone has around 50 ongoing investigations linked to the top tiers of immigration crime and since the start of this year has been involved in more than 140 arrests.

Mr Grace added: ‘While the events of last month in which at least 27 people died were an absolute tragedy, unfortunately it was not a surprise when you consider the types of boats we have seen people being put in. Frankly, they are death traps.

‘If you add that to the increasing crowding we are seeing on these vessels, and the poor weather and colder seas of winter, it all adds to a greatly increased risk.

‘It demonstrates further to us that the people smugglers involved in these crossings don’t care about the wellbeing of those they put on the boats. They don’t care if they die. They just want to exploit their desperation for money.

‘I would also reiterate our appeal from earlier in the year to those involved in the maritime industry, both here in the UK and on the Continent.

‘Please be on alert, and if you have suspicions around the purchase of the kinds of items that can be used in these crossings, please report it.’

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