More migrants cross the Channel to Britain as political tension mounts

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DOVER, England (Reuters) – British border officials brought migrants ashore in the port of Dover on Monday after picking them up on an inflatable boat as they crossed the Channel, the latest in a wave of level crossings that causes political tensions with France.Taking advantage of the warm weather and calm seas, more than 500 migrants have reached England since Thursday, many in overloaded rubber dinghies.

A Reuters photographer in Dover saw a border force boat arriving carrying a group of migrants wearing life jackets. A blue rubber dinghy was towed by another vessel.

“What is happening is the activity of cruel and criminal gangs that risk the lives of these people, taking them across the Channel … in potentially non-navigable ships,” Prime Minister Boris said Johnson to broadcasters.

“We want to stop this, by working with the French.”

The Interior Ministry, or Interior Ministry, said it would return as many migrants as possible to France. Immigration Minister Chris Philp is due to meet his French counterpart in Paris this week.

France says it has already deployed additional resources and that many boats are intercepted before they cross.

Stephen Hale, chief executive of the Refugee Action charity, said the number of sea crossings to Britain – around 4,000 so far this year – was minimal in the context of what he described like a global refugee crisis.

“It is serious for those concerned, but it is a modest move by international standards and it is certainly something that Britain can cope with,” he told Reuters, comparing the situation to that of Lebanon, which has a million Syrian refugees.

France received 138,000 asylum applications last year, more than three times the 44,200 that were received by Britain, according to Eurostat.

Border Forces crew assist migrants in a Border Forces boat at the port of Dover, Britain August 10, 2020. REUTERS / Peter Nicholls

Many migrants seeking to reach Britain come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and countries in Africa, fleeing poverty, persecution or war. Some have a chance of obtaining asylum, while others, seen as illegal economic migrants, are unlikely to be allowed to stay in Britain.

SEND THE NAVY?

The UK Home Office has asked the military to help it deal with the migrant boats, although it has not explained what it wants them to do.

French lawmaker Pierre-Henri Dumont, who represents the Calais region across the Channel from Dover, dismissed the idea as an attempt by British ministers “to show some kind of muscle”.

“My question is: what for? If a small boat full of migrants enters British waters, will the British Navy shoot them? He said in an interview with the BBC.

Johnson said it was very difficult to send people back when they arrived illegally, suggesting he wanted that to change.

“We need to look at the legal framework we have, the whole panoply of laws that an illegal immigrant has at their disposal that allows them to stay here,” he said.

Any attempt to change the rules could be complicated by Britain’s exit from the European Union. As it stands, most EU agreements still apply during a transition period that will end on December 31.

Dumont said that after this Britain would no longer be able to return migrants to EU countries, as this was only possible under an EU program.

“This will lead to a considerable increase in the number of migrants who will attempt to cross the Channel,” he said.

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Hale said the government was portraying the situation on the south coast as a crisis when it was not.

Restrictions on international travel since March due to the coronavirus have also ended a government program that allowed Syrian refugees to come to Britain from Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, he added.

Additional reporting and writing by Estelle Shirbon in London; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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