Drone images of abandoned migrant boats expose scale of English Channel crossings

Dozens of small boats abandoned by migrants at Dover

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Drone photographs have revealed the scale of migrant crossings in the English Channel as the UK authorities struggle to stem the flow of arrivals.

More than 100 small boats were pictured piled up in rows at a compound in Dover, southern England, after they were used by migrants to cross the shipping lane, mainly from France, before being intercepted by UK Border Force patrols.

Record numbers of migrants have made the journey to the UK this year despite promises from the British government to make the crossing "unviable".

More than 9,000 migrants crossed the Channel so far this year, surpassing the 2020 total when a record 8,417 people landed on British shores.

The striking photographs of the abandoned dinghies come after the UK government agreed a deal with France to step up patrols along the French coastline.

The deal will cost the UK more than £54 million ($73m), according to the French Interior Ministry.

About 2,000 migrants are understood to be gathered in northern France, roughly double the number waiting to cross in March.

Officials fear that high numbers of arrivals will continue throughout the summer as the warm weather creates favourable conditions in the Channel.

The UK Home Office previously said migrants were now taking 'even longer, riskier journeys' after people smugglers changed their tactics. AP

The UK Home Office previously said migrants were now taking "even longer, riskier journeys" after people smugglers changed their tactics and moved farther east along the French coast.

They send out vessels in waves, with smaller boats sent out first to distract the French authorities. Larger boats then carry more migrants across later.

Officials said one boat last week had 83 people on board.

The UK is attempting to intervene earlier by educating migrants about the dangers of the Channel crossing and the ruthlessness of people smugglers.

But the Home Office wants France to do more on the issue as well.

It said the new support announced by the UK will enable France "to respond by posting more security forces further up the coast, installing and utilising the latest surveillance equipment throughout northern France".

Nearly 600 people were stopped by border patrols while trying to cross the English Channel in more than a dozen separate incidents on Sunday.

After the British authorities detained 378 people on their side of the Channel, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel declared her “unwavering determination” to put a stop to illegal migration.

Another 178 people were intercepted by the French authorities in five further incidents and stopped from reaching British shores.

Meanwhile, Paris is calling for help from the EU’s border agency, Frontex.

Frontex’s operations – which have come under scrutiny because of alleged human rights breaches in the Mediterranean – are mainly focused on people trying to cross the EU’s southern borders in Greece, Spain and Italy.

But French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said it should help to curb cross-Channel migration after the number of crossings rose to record levels.

He said France would push for greater EU action on asylum seekers when it takes on the rotating presidency of the bloc in January.

“I myself have contacted Frontex, which is predominantly taking care of Southern Europe, and asked them to deal with Northern Europe, too,” he said.

“Sixty per cent of migrants who come here, come via Belgium. So, our spectrum must be very wide. We need European air surveillance.”

Updated: July 28, 2021, 5:11 AM