Migrant drowns after 271 people cross Channel to UK in one day

More than 450 people have made the journey across the waterway since the start of 2022

A young child was among the migrants who arrived in the UK on small boats on Thursday. PA
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A migrant has died trying to cross the English Channel on a small boat from France, after 271 people reached British shores in one day.

French authorities said an unconscious person was found floating in the water in the early hours of Friday morning after falling overboard from a boat carrying 25 others.

The victim was taken back to shore but pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

An investigation into what happened has been opened by the prosecutor in the northern French city of Boulogne-sur-Mer.

The UK Home Office said it was aware of the death but it would be inappropriate to comment further while a French investigation is under way.

On Thursday, a young child was among 271 migrants who crossed the Channel from France to the UK in near-freezing temperatures.

Ten dinghies arrived on the south-east coast of England on Thursday, as calm conditions led to a flurry of attempts to reach Britain.

Since the start of the year, more than 450 people have made the dangerous journey through the busy shipping lane.

Thursday’s figures, confirmed by Britain's Home Office, is more than the total for the full month of January last year.

The child was seen being helped on to land by Border Force officials in Dover, accompanied by an adult male.

The crossings come after a record-breaking year which saw 28,401 people land on British shores. Dozens drowned attempting the dangerous crossing. Last year’s figure was more than three times the total number of arrivals recorded in 2020.

Migrants arrive at the Port of Dover onboard a Border Force boat after being intercepted crossing the English Channel. Reuters

Human rights non-government organisation Amnesty International said the latest influx of people showed the “desperation” experienced by many migrants who are willing to risk their lives to reach the UK.

The group urged London and Paris to work together to provide more legal ways for people to claim asylum in the UK.

“People making these perilous sea crossings are doing so out of desperation, mainly because there are no safe and legal routes for them to seek asylum in this country, and many have family and other connections here,” said Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director.

“Ministers should stop shirking their responsibility towards refugees.

“For instance, it’s misleading, and indeed verging on cruel, for ministers and officials to talk about France being a ‘safe country’ when many people who are perfectly entitled to seek asylum in Britain are trapped in miserable and dangerous conditions in camps in northern France.

“The UK and the French governments should prioritise humane ways of fulfilling their shared duty to provide asylum.”

It was announced last week that Border Force officials could take action over UK Home Secretary Priti Patel’s plans to turn back migrant boats in the Channel.

After the proposals last year, human rights campaigners voiced concern over how such tactics could affect vulnerable people in flimsy boats.

The Public and Commercial Services Union, whose members include around 80 per cent of the Border Force officials who would be tasked with implementing the pushbacks, and the charity Care4Calais have filed an application for judicial review on the policy.

Ms Patel is under pressure from members of the Conservative Party to stamp out illegal immigration, as some say the approach is “too soft”.

A poll carried out in November showed 77 per cent of party members wanted to see more stringent measures brought in to curb the practice.

Despite Ms Patel vowing make crossings an “infrequent phenomenon” by spring 2020, about 36,000 people have succeeded in reaching the UK in the last two years.

Updated: January 14, 2022, 3:23 PM