Migrant crossings surge as 169 attempt to reach coronavirus-hit UK in one day

A surge of migrants attempted to cross the English Channel on Wednesday, despite the state of national lockdown.

A total of 169 people were intercepted by UK and French authorities as they made the journey.

The Home Office has denied that the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting its ability to respond to migrant crossings and insisted it still has the resources it needs.

Dover and Deal MP Natalie Elphicke called for swift action and an immediate 14 day quarantine for all illegal entrants to the UK.

In one of the busiest days for migrant crossings, Border Force dealt with six incidents in the Channel.

A total of 95 people were taken to Dover, including nine who identified themselves as children.

Meanwhile, French authorities have detained “around 74” people, making a total figure of 169 migrants.

At 5.20am on Wednesday 42 people were found on a single inflatable boat, the Home Office said.

They presented themselves as Iranian and Iraqi nationals.

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “All the cases from today will be dealt with according to the immigration rules, with detention used where appropriate.

“Coronavirus is not having an impact on our operational response to clandestine incidents and we still have the resources to deal with it.”

Migrant Channel crossing
Migrant Channel crossing

The other incidents included:

– At about 1am an inflatable boat carrying ten men was intercepted. Those aboard presented themselves as Iraqi and Iranian nationals.

– At about 2.30am a Border Force vessel picked up a group of 13 males who said they were Iranian and Afghan nationals.

– At about 4am, an inflatable boat carrying 11 individuals was intercepted. The males aboard presented themselves as Iraqi, Iranian and Kuwaiti nationals.

– At 5.30am Border Force rescued a group of eight males who claimed to be Iranian nationals.

– At 7.30am an inflatable boat carrying a group of 11 people was intercepted. Those on board presented themselves as Iranian and Iraqi nationals.

On the other side of the Channel, French authorities have also dealt with multiple small boats and have detained “around 74 people”, according to the Home Office.

Mrs Elphicke called on the UK and French authorities to take swift action to put an end to migrant crossings.

She said: “If people break into the country illegally, whether by small boats or lorries, they should be immediately quarantined for 14 days for the protection of our community and our country.

“The Port of Dover, the ferry companies, lorry drivers and other local workers are a key part of the vital supply line of food, medicine and goods.

“These illegal crossings cannot be allowed to put any part of our national operation at risk. Illegal migrants picked up at sea must be taken to other smaller ports.

“We must protect the nation. We need to be fully focused on beating the virus at this time.”