Surge in ‘death-defying’ migrant crossings despite coronavirus crisis

Covid-19 fears have not stopped a surge of migrants risking their lives trying to cross to the UK in dangerous inflatable boats.

More than 100 people have been intercepted by border patrols as they attempted the treacherous journey this week, with many more possibly slipping through.

Migrants wearing face masks, apparently as an attempt to guard against coronavirus, were reportedly seen at the Port of Dover in Kent.

Bella Sankey from Detention Action called for migrants to be given “safe accommodation, instead of indefinite detention” and the means to self-isolate if they need to.

Migrants
Men thought to be migrants are met by Border Force officers in Dover (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Fears were raised this week that 3,000 migrants living in northern France in desperate conditions were at high risk of contracting Covid-19.

Care4Calais founder Clare Moseley said it was only a matter of time before the virus swept through migrant camps.

Migrants intercepted in the Channel and brought to the UK are being “closely monitored” for symptoms of coronavirus, the Home Office said.

Additionally it said that Border Force and all operational staff have personal protective equipment (PPE) available to them.

More than 100 migrants were intercepted in a number of incidents this week, including:

– On Monday French authorities intercepted 16 migrants five nautical miles off Dunkirk after being contacted by a ferry at about 8.30am.

– The next day,at about 4.30am, Border Force rescued 16 migrants and took them to Dover.

– Also on Tuesday, at about 8.30am, nine migrants were found aboard an inflatable boat and taken ashore in Dover.

– On Thursday, in the first of five incidents, French authorities intercepted 16 migrants 5.5 nautical miles north-east of Calais.

Migrants
Men are met by Border Force officers (Gareth Fuller/PA)

– At 7am UK authorities were alerted to an inflatable boat on a beach at The Warren, Folkestone. Five lifejackets were found but no migrants were located.

– At 9.30am Border Force picked up a boat outside the Port of Dover which had 15 migrants aboard who said they were Iranian nationals.

– Also at 9.30am, another boat carrying 24 individuals – including seven children – was intercepted. The migrants presented themselves as Iranian and Iraqi nationals and were taken ashore in the UK.

– And at 5pm French authorities intercepted 12 migrants – including seven children – and took them to a French port.

In total 108 migrants are known to have been intercepted by UK and French authorities, with 64 of those being taken to the UK.

Bella Sankey director of charity Detention Action, told the PA news agency: “The desperation of those making death-defying crossings during a global pandemic is self-evident.”

She added that following the Windrush report, “the Home Secretary says she wants to put fairness, dignity and respect at the heart of the Home Office’s mission and put people before process.

“If this is true, those seeking sanctuary here will be provided with safe accommodation, instead of indefinite detention, and given the means to self isolate if that is necessary.”

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