Record migrant numbers cross English Channel before winter storms

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson appoints new chief to attempt to reduce record journeys

Record number of migrants are crossing the English Channel in a bid to beat the winter storms.

On two days in the past fortnight, more than a 1,000 migrants have made the journey from France to England.

Numbers for the year are expected to exceed 25,000 this week – more than three times the figure for 2020.

The government has admitted that only five migrants had been returned to their home countries this year, compared to 294 in 2020.

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid has blamed the pandemic on making it difficult to return failed asylum seekers.

The surge of refugees is now hurting the Conservative Party government politically, with 77 per cent of voters who backed the Tories at the last election stating the approach to managing Channel crossings as “too soft”.

The poll came in as hundreds more people, including children, crossed the Channel at the weekend before worsening winter weather makes the journey even more dangerous.

Adults carrying children wrapped in blankets were seen arriving on the south-east coast of England on Saturday, with help from lifeboat crews.

People in southern county Kent have been greetings arrivals with “emergency boxes” of food and warm clothing, along with fish and chips.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has now appointed the Cabinet Office minister Stephen Barclay with the task of bringing the crossing numbers down.

This move will be seen as a criticism of Home Secretary Priti Patel’s handling of the situation.

Mr Johnson is said to have become “exasperated” after strategies repeatedly failed to reduce the number of trips across the 35 kilometres of open water.

The opposition Labour Party's Nick Thomas-Symonds accused Ms Patel of “comprehensively failing” to stem the flow.

“It appears the Prime Minister agrees because he seems to be putting the minister for the Cabinet Office in charge of a review of this,” he told the BBC.

“Her incompetence on this issue is dangerous.”

It is understood that at least 10 migrants have died in the past few weeks while trying to make the crossing.

Updated: November 21st 2021, 7:05 PM
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