Migrant crossings: UK calls on France to work ‘constructively’ on issue after more than 1,000 people crossed Channel in one day last week

The UK government has said it wants to work “constructively” with France on the issue of migrants crossing the Channel after a record number of people reached the country on small boats last week.

On Thursday, 1,185 individuals arrived in the UK – a new record for a single day in the current crisis – with a total of more than 23,500 people having reached the island using small boats to cross the Channel so far this year, according to data compiled by the PA news agency.

Speaking on Monday, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said 18,000 crossings have been prevented so far in 2021 and urged the French to join forces with British ministers to “resolve this issue”.

The PM’s spokesman’s comments came as it was reported that young children were carried ashore in Dover earlier in the day.

One toddler wrapped in a hoodie was carried in the arms of a woman and they were closely followed by an older child and a man who were brought into the Kent port aboard a Border Force patrol boat.

Another child was seen being carried in the arms of an immigration officer as they were taken off the boat.

Other reports suggest a jet ski used to cross the English Channel has been recovered at sea by the RNLI and towed ashore.

A sharp increase of crossings over the last two weeks have reignited tensions between Britain and France over how the issue should be tackled.

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin has blamed Britain’s work market for enticing people to attempt the perilous crossing.

Mr Darmanin told French media that NGOs “preventing the gendarmerie from working” are largely British with British citizens working on French soil.

He added: “Smugglers organising networks and making large sums of money… exploiting women and children, who are often fragile and from Africa and the Middle East, are often in Great Britain.”

The PM’s official spokesperson said on Monday that “more needs to be done” and that Home Secretary Priti Patel is talking to her French counterpart about the matter.

“We continue to see France as a close ally of the UK. We do want to work constructively to resolve this issue,” the spokesperson told reporters.

“We are providing funding to the French to allow them to increase surveillance, to allow them to increase the police presence that is there to prevent these crossings taking place.

“Through that investment we have seen stoppages increase and that is to be welcomed but clearly with the level of crossings we are seeing per day more needs to be done.”

The spokesperson added: “It is clear that we need to keep working with our French counterparts to do more to prevent these crossings, which are putting lives at risk.

“That is why the home secretary is looking to speak to her counterpart to make those points and address this unexpected rise in illegal migrants arriving from France which we are seeing playing out in front of us.”

Last week, a Home Office spokesperson said the number of migrant crossings was “unacceptable”.

“The British public have had enough of seeing people die in the Channel while ruthless criminal gangs profit from their misery, and our New Plan for Immigration will fix the broken system which encourages migrants to make this lethal journey,” the spokesperson said.

The previous record for the number of migrants arriving in the UK aboard small boats in a single day is 853, which was set on 3 November.

In recent weeks, at least two people have died while trying to attempt the perilous journey and several more have been feared to be lost at sea.

Ms Patel pledged in August last year to “make this route unviable”.

Since then, the government has agreed to pay France £54m to increase immigration controls.

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