Eritrean teenager happy to be in UK as he and others cross English Channel

A 17-year-old from Eritrea has said he is happy to be in the UK as he arrived on a Kent beach aboard a lifeboat after making the arduous journey across the English Channel.

He was among dozens of people picked up at sea by the RNLI and brought safely ashore on Dungeness beach on Tuesday.

Others knelt down as they reached the shingle, raising their arms in apparent prayer after arriving in Britain following their dangerous voyage.

Despite the inherent dangers of taking to the Dover Strait in inflatable boats, crossings continued on Tuesday after around 750 migrants were believed to have made the trip on Monday.

It comes as Home Secretary Priti Patel is expected to discuss the matter with her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin at the three-day G7 interior ministers’ meeting in London.

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought ashore from the Dungeness lifeboat in Kent
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought ashore from the Dungeness lifeboat in Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)

At around 2.30pm, a lifeboat carrying around a dozen people landed at Dungeness, where they were met by immigration staff and police.

One woman, wearing a black jacket and face mask, gingerly descended a ladder from the lifeboat helped by RNLI volunteers.

She told the PA news agency she had come from Iran, as she was guided ashore.

Speaking as he walked up the shingle towards the lifeboat station, one young man told PA he was 17 years old.

The teenager added he was happy to be in the UK and that he had come from Eritrea.

Later at around 4.40pm, about 50 people arrived at Dungeness aboard the all-weather lifeboat.

As they were guided safely ashore, several paused and knelt on the shingle, raising their arms in prayer or celebration after reaching dry land.

Among the arrivals were two babies being carried in the arms of adults.

The Home Office has yet to confirm how many people succeeded in reaching the UK in small boats on Monday or Tuesday.

Monday’s tally is thought to be between 740 and 750, which would make it the second highest daily total of the year, following the single-day record of 828 people set last month.

Earlier this year, Ms Patel and her French counterpart announced an agreement to more than double the number of police patrolling French beaches.

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought ashore from the local lifeboat at Dungeness in Kent
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought ashore (Gareth Fuller/PA)

It was the second pledge of its kind in a year, in a bid to prevent illegal migration and stop small boats from leaving France.

As part of the deal, the Government pledged to give France £54 million to support its efforts to stop small boat crossings.

Ms Patel has since told MPs she is prepared to withhold the promised funds unless there is an improvement in the number of migrants intercepted by French authorities, Government sources confirmed to PA.

It is understood that none of the money has been paid so far.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said UK and French officials were “working on the implementation” of the deal and that “significant” funding provided in November had already led to increased patrols and “enhanced intelligence”.

He added: “Following a long period of poor weather, we have seen an increase in crossings as criminal gangs seek to exploit the improved sea conditions.

“This is still extremely dangerous. We remain determined to fix the broken asylum system and break the business model of people smugglers who put lives at risk, and welcome people through safe and legal routes.”

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought ashore from the Dungeness lifeboat in Kent
At least 12,500 people have made the crossing to the UK in 2021, according to data compiled by PA (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds called for the Government to focus on finding a “workable solution with the French authorities, tackling vile people-smuggling gangs and properly managing safe routes to prevent people risking their lives”.

At least 12,500 people have now made the crossing to the UK in 2021, according to data compiled by PA.

The perilous journey across the busy Dover Strait shipping lanes which separate Britain from the continent has claimed several lives, including that of a man from Eritrea last month.

The 27-year-old died after he and four other people jumped overboard as their boat started to sink as they tried to reach Britain.

The Home Office has repeatedly vowed to make the route “unviable”, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisting that Ms Patel is “working around the clock” to address the matter.