Daily record of 235 migrants cross English Channel to UK

British government vows to make Channel people-smuggling route unviable as officials set to visit France

A record 235 migrants crossed the English Channel into the UK illegally via small boats on Thursday as Britain's government vowed to make the route unviable.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said it required a two-pronged approach that stops the boats leaving France in the first place, and intercepting and returning those who attempt to make the crossing.

“The number of illegal small boat crossings is appalling and unacceptably high,” she wrote on Twitter.

“The figures are shameful. France and other EU states are safe countries. Genuine refugees should claim asylum there, not risk their lives and break the law by coming to the UK,” she said.

The number of people attempting illegal entry into Britain surpassed last week’s record of 202 arrivals in one day.

Only last month Ms Patel and French interior minister Gerald Darmanin agreed to set up a French-British intelligence unit to crack down on what she called “gangs behind vile people smuggling”.

Government finance chief Rishi Sunak said British officials are expected to visit France next week for further talks about the issue.

“I think people are absolutely right to be frustrated at the scenes they’re seeing. I’m frustrated, everyone is, which is why we’ve been working much more closely with the French government in recent time to improve our co-operation and intelligence-sharing,” Mr Sunak told Sky News.

He declined to comment on reports that the UK could send Royal Navy ships to patrol the Channel.

The jump in crossings came as testimonies emerged indicating that people smugglers were using increasingly brutal tactics to ensure their orders were being followed. The Guardian newspaper reported that migrants had been ordered around at gun and knifepoint, and threatened with having their fingernails ripped off.

Bella Sankey, the director of human rights charity Detention Action, said many migrants had legitimate reasons to go to Britain, such as relatives in the country. She said the British government should offer safe and legal routes for them to come.

“This would end the crossings overnight and ensure we are standing by our age-old tradition of protecting those seeking sanctuary on our shores,” she said.

“Trying to make this route ‘unviable’ through greater enforcement is naive grandstanding and amounts to more of the same.”