Charles Hymas, The Telegraph, June 18, 2023
More than 10,000 migrants have crossed the Channel in small boats since the start of the year, Home Office figures show.
Some 374 migrants reached the UK on Saturday after being picked up in the Channel, taking the provisional total for 2023 to 10,139. Crossings have picked up in recent days after a quiet spell earlier in the month as people smugglers have taken advantage of the sunny weather, calmer seas and lower winds.
Some 2,529 migrants have been reported by the Home Office to have arrived between Jun 10 and 17. That is more than 40 per cent higher than at the same point in June 2022. The surge is threatening to undermine Rishi Sunak’s claims earlier this month that the Government’s stop the boat policies are starting to work.
He said then that crossings were down by 20 per cent, but the latest June figures have halved the difference to 10.5 per cent.
There is also evidence that crossings by Albanians whose numbers until mid-May were well down on last year have started to pick up. Last year, Albanians accounted for a quarter of the record 45,755 crossings, but were just two per cent at the start of the year. But the majority of their crossings only started in June through to summer last year.
It comes after The Telegraph revealed that the Home Office and French government have joined forces to launch a surveillance plane to fly over the English Channel 24/7 to catch people smugglers.
The move, designed to cut the overall numbers of migrants and vulnerable asylum seekers from crossing the Channel on small boats, is being seen as the “final piece in the puzzle” to cut crossings.
However, former minister Tim Loughton, a member of the home affairs committee, warned that until the French police started arresting migrants on the northern France beaches, their interceptions of the boats leaving would remain only a delaying tactic.
“They don’t arrest them. They confiscate or destroy their boats but the migrants are allowed to disappear. They are then back the following night, and the following night and the following night. They only have to get lucky once,” he said.
He urged the Government to turn round asylum applications faster and ensure those who were rejected left the UK at “the earliest possible moment”.
“It is all of those things we have to get right of which the Rwanda [deportation] scheme is a part, if and when it is up and running,” he added.
The Government’s new illegal migration bill will give Home Secretary Suella Braverman powers to detain anyone who enters the UK illegally and deport them to a safe third country such as Rwanda or to their home nation.
The appeal court is due to rule within days on the legality of the Rwanda policy, which could see flights start by the Autumn, unless there is a further appeal granted to the supreme court. Ministers see it as a key deterrent to stopping the migrant crossings.
Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, said: “These figures show the dismal failure of all the Prime Minister’s boasts of progress on small boats, and follow a week of damning official reports on the surging backlog, spiralling hotel costs and failing border security.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “Our priority is to stop the boats, and our Small Boats Operational Command is working alongside our French partners and other agencies to disrupt the people smugglers.”
Bill could cause children ‘unacceptable’ harm
Detaining child migrants under the Government’s new small boats laws risks causing them “unacceptable” physical and mental harm, a coalition of Britain’s leading medical bodies have warned.
The groups have written to Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Health Secretary Steve Barclay condemning the child detention provisions set out in the Illegal Migration Bill and requested an urgent meeting with the pair.
The royal colleges of psychiatry and paediatrics, British Medical Association (BMA) and Faculty of Public Health warn that reversing the a decade-old ban on child detention risks causing children post-traumatic stress disorder, clinical depression and suicidal behaviour.
The Bill, which is currently being debated in the House of Lords, would allow for the detention of children arriving in the UK illegally and contains the power to remove unaccompanied youngsters. Those permitted to stay would be allowed to do so only until they turn 18 and would not be able to settle in the UK.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has previously responded to critics of the plans by saying children cannot be exempted as that could in turn create “a pull factor” for people to make the crossing.
Tory backbench revolt
Ministers are already facing Tory backbench revolt over the proposals and have offered concessions that would place time limits on the length of detention and restrict the circumstances in which unaccompanied children could be detained although they fall short of maintaining the ban.
In their letter, the groups said: “As medical bodies and refugee organisations, we condemn the child detention provisions set out in the Illegal Migration Bill and request an urgent meeting with you to discuss our concern.”
Signatories to the letter included Prof Kevin Fenton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, who urged the Government to “put an end to these appalling proposals”, and Prof Andrew Rowland from RCPCH, who said “detaining children for indefinite periods of time can cause unimaginable levels of harm and trauma”.
Dr Jan Wise, BMA ethics committee chair, said many migrant children will already have “endured a traumatic migration journey and detention risks exacerbating any ongoing issues they may have”.
Dr Adrian James, president of the RCP, said the Bill’s potential to permit detaining children for indefinite periods is “wholly unacceptable, especially when they are already some of the most vulnerable members of society”.
He added: “In previous years government policy sought to enact strict limits on child detention. It is alarming to witness such a gigantic step backwards, returning to a way of thinking that is outdated and just plain wrong.”