More than 4,000 migrants reach UK by small boats in 2020

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies

More than 4,000 migrants have now reached the UK in 2020 by crossing the English Channel in small boats.

Families with young children have been among hundreds of people arriving in Dover in the last few days as the political row over the crisis has intensified.

While South East England basked in roasting sunshine on Saturday, another 151 migrants arrived in the UK after crossing the dangerous Dover Strait.

The Home Office has officially asked the Royal Navy for help and a former Royal Marine has been appointed “clandestine Channel threat commander”.

A Border Force vessel brings a group of people thought to be migrants into Dover, Kent Credit: Yui Mok/PA

As numbers of migrants attempting the perilous sea journey continue to rise, the Government has been accused of being “increasingly chaotic” in its handling of the crisis.

More migrants have reached the UK on Sunday, with Border Force cutter Seeker roaming British waters.

Up to 12 people were seen being brought ashore in Dover earlier this morning aboard patrol boat Speedwell.

French authorities are also active in the English Channel today.

After a surge in crossings in the latter part of this week, the number of migrants who have reached the UK in 2020 in small boats is now more than 4,100, analysis by the PA news agency shows.

So far in August more than 650 have successfully reached British shores via the dangerous Channel route.

Most of that number came between Thursday and Saturday, with at least 532 migrants arriving in the UK.

Numbers of migrants attempting the perilous sea journey continue to rise Credit: Yui Mok/PA

This comes despite Home Secretary Priti Patel’s vow last year that the crossings would have become an “infrequent phenomenon” by now.

She has recently sought to level blame at her counterparts on the continent as she revealed the UK and French governments were locked in a row over the interpretation of maritime law.

Yesterday it was announced that Ms Patel has tasked former Royal Marine Dan O’Mahoney with delivering her ambition of making the English Channel “unviable” for migrants in small boats.

Bridget Chapman, spokesperson for the Kent Refugee Action Network, said: “The government’s handling of this issue is becoming increasingly chaotic, with elements of sabre-rattling.

“Nothing they have done so far has worked.

"They have spent millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money fortifying the port at Calais, have increased patrols in the Channel, and are now escalating a failing strategy by calling in the military to deal with a humanitarian situation.

“Priti Patel has said that she wants to make the Channel ‘unviable’ for people attempting to cross.

"But what is unviable is her approach.”

Ms Chapman called for Ms Patel and her French counterparts to offer people a safe and legal route to the UK.

She added: “That would close this route overnight, would save lives, and we would know exactly who was arriving and when.”

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke has been calling for migrants to be returned to France irrespective of whether they are picked up in British or French waters in a bid to stop people "breaking into Britain".

"The small boats route is an issue which needs to be tackled by the British and French jointly," Ms Elphicke said.

"The French have already had tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money and they do have treaty obligations.

"So I do want to see the French stop more boats leaving the French shores, fresh agreements - so wherever anyone is picked up in the Channel they will be returned to France safely and securely, and if people do break into Britain through these illegal routes they are also returned to France, because it's only in this way that people will know they can't succeed in breaking into Britain and it will bring an end to the small boats crossing crisis."