More migrants cross the Channel to Britain as political tension mounts

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DOVER, England (Reuters) – British border forces brought migrants ashore in the port of Dover on Monday after picking them up on an inflatable boat as they crossed the English Channel, the latest in a wave of crossings that causes political tensions with France.

The migrants are brought to the port of Dover by the border patrol, in Dover, Great Britain, August 9, 2020. REUTERS / Paul Childs

Taking advantage of a heat wave and calm sea conditions, more than 500 migrants have made it to Britain’s shores since Thursday, many in overloaded rubber dinghies.

A Reuters photographer in Dover, on the south coast of England, saw a Border Forces boat arriving carrying a group of migrants wearing life jackets, while a blue inflatable boat was towed by another vessel.

British ministers called the rise in level crossings “unacceptable” and called on France to do more to prevent boats from leaving northern France.

“We have to make this path totally unsustainable,” said Chris Philp, Minister of Immigration Compliance, on Sunday. “We intend to return as many of the migrants who have arrived as possible.”

Pro-migrant charities accuse the government of overreacting to level crossings for political gain, when the numbers are miniscule compared to the flow of migrants arriving regularly in Mediterranean countries like Greece and Italy.

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

TENSIONS WITH FRANCE

The 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.

Philp is due to travel to Paris this week for talks with his French counterpart.

The French Interior Ministry says it has already deployed additional resources and that a large number of boats are intercepted before their crossing.

Pierre-Henri Dumont, French MP representing the region of Calais, just across the Channel from Dover, rejected the idea of ​​calling the navy 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.

“We are talking about human beings, we are not talking about cattle,” he said. “We must first save lives.”

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Dumont said it was unrealistic to expect France to stop every crossing, as there were 300 km of coastline to watch out for and it only took a group of migrants a few minutes to get on and off. .

Britain left the European Union in January and is currently in a period of transition, with most of the Europe agreements still in force. Dumont said that when the transition ends on December 31, Britain will no longer be able to return migrants to EU countries.

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

Writing and additional reporting by Estelle Shirbon in London; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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