168 migrants crossed Channel yesterday - as total for 2022 nears 1,000

Nearly 1,000 migrants have arrived in UK ALREADY this year after 168 landed in Dover on six boats yesterday including one that came perilously close to P&O ferry

  • Six boats intercepted or rescued by Border Force officials in Channel on Tuesday
  • One small boat carrying dozens of people came close to a P&O ferry yesterday
  • Number of migrants arriving in the UK in small boats has reached nearly 1,000
  • Officials have told Priti Patel that 65,000 people could cross the Channel in 2022
  • A total of 168 migrants crossed the English Channel yesterday, bringing the number of small boat arrivals in the UK to almost 1,000 so far this year.

    Six boats were intercepted by Border Force officials and brought to the Port of Dover on Tuesday, according to the Home Office.

    One small boat carrying dozens of people, including children, came perilously close to a P&O ferry while making the dangerous journey across the Channel – the world’s busiest shipping lane.

    French authorities meanwhile intercepted three further crossings involving 126 people.

    The latest crossings bring the total number of migrants arriving in the UK by small boats to nearly 1,000 already this year.

    Last year saw a record 28,381 people cross the Channel in small boats. But it was not until mid-February when the number of migrant crossings reached 1,000.

    Officials have told Home Secretary Priti Patel that 65,000 people could cross the Channel in 2022 – more than double last year’s total.

    Some MPs have called for an end to the migrants crossings, which they have described as ‘incredible unsafe’, while campaigners have urged the Government to open safe channels and commit to resettle 10,000 people in the UK each year.

    It comes as ministers were yesterday warned that plans to use the Royal Navy to solve the Channel migrant crisis would result in the senior service being turned into a ‘taxi service’.

    Meanwhile plans to fly migrants to Africa were left in tatters after Ghana, one of the countries officials said to be in talks with the UK Government, said they knew nothing about it.

    Ministers were said to be drawing up proposals which would see people arriving illegally in the UK sent abroad for processing and resettlement, with the west African nation and Rwanda named.

    But in a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Accra said it did not want to get involved in what it called ‘Operation Dead Meat’ – a detraction of the Tory party’s ‘Operation Red Meat’ plan to save under fire Boris Johnson.

    A total of 168 migrants crossed the English Channel yesterday, bringing the number of small boat arrivals in the UK to almost 1,000 so far this year

    A total of 168 migrants crossed the English Channel yesterday, bringing the number of small boat arrivals in the UK to almost 1,000 so far this year

    Six boats were intercepted by Border Force officials and brought to the Port of Dover on Tuesday, according to the Home Office

    Six boats were intercepted by Border Force officials and brought to the Port of Dover on Tuesday, according to the Home Office

    One small boat carrying dozens of people, including children, came perilously close to a P&O ferry while making the dangerous journey across the Channel - the world's busiest shipping lane

    One small boat carrying dozens of people, including children, came perilously close to a P&O ferry while making the dangerous journey across the Channel – the world’s busiest shipping lane

    Official figures show more than three times as many migrants have arrived in Britain so far this month than in the whole of January last year. UK authorities have intercepted more than 950 migrants so far this year – more than three times the 223 in January 2021. Last year, 28,381 people were intercepted in the Channel, compared to just 8,410 in 2020

    It comes as around 30 people including young children were seen being brought to shore onboard Border Force vessels yesterday, with two small boats landing in Dover after making the dangerous crossing from Europe in the freezing cold and dark.

    Photos taken on the approach to the Port of Dover in Kent show a group of men, women and children huddled in lifejackets as their dinghy edges towards A P&O passenger ferry, moments before they were pulled to safety by the Border Force boat.  

    Yesterday Boris Johnson’s Government revealed plans to give the Royal Navy the power to carry out surveillance and intercept migrants as the crisis in the Channel continues. 

    It is one of a series of populist policies the Prime Minister has announced in recent days to shore up his tottering leadership as he faces calls to resign over the ‘Partygate’ lockdown scandal.

    Defence Minister James Heappey yesterday insisted that deploying Britain’s armed forces to ‘ensure that our borders are robust is indeed a perfectly appropriate use of them’ while giving evidence at the Commons Defence Select Committee.

    However, in signs of a rift between the Government and the MoD, military sources insisted that controversial ‘push-back’ tactics would not be pursued amid mounting concerns that the policy is illegal and could cause more deaths in the Channel. 

    Last week, a Sudanese man, aged in his 20s, fell overboard and drowned while attempting the crossing.

    Conservative chairman Tobias Ellwood warned ‘there is a real danger of mission creep here’, while Tory former minister Sir Edward Leigh branded plans to use the Navy as a ‘taxi service’ to escort migrants to the UK an ’embarrassment’.

    And Labour’s shadow defence secretary John Healey claimed the Government is ‘desperate to distract attention from accusations about the Prime Minister lying and partying in Downing Street’ and ‘desperate to prop up a Home Secretary utterly failing’. 

    A group of people thought to be migrants are escorted by Border Forcer officers as they approached the Port of Dover in Kent yesterday, following a small boat incident in the Channel

    A group of people thought to be migrants are escorted by Border Forcer officers as they approached the Port of Dover in Kent yesterday, following a small boat incident in the Channel

    A group of migrants including young children sitting on the beach at Dungeness in Kent on January 18, 2022

    A group of migrants including young children sitting on the beach at Dungeness in Kent on January 18, 2022

    A group of migrants including a young child walking near the beach at Dungeness in Kent on January 18, 2022

    A group of migrants including a young child walking near the beach at Dungeness in Kent on January 18, 2022

    A group of migrants including young children sitting on the beach at Dungeness in Kent on January 18, 2022

    A group of migrants including young children sitting on the beach at Dungeness in Kent on January 18, 2022

    A migrant arrives at the Port of Dover after being intercepted by the UK Border Force on January 17, 2022

    A migrant arrives at the Port of Dover after being intercepted by the UK Border Force on January 17, 2022

    Officials have warned Home Secretary Priti Patel that 65,000 migrants could cross the Channel this year – more than double last year's 28,300 record number (Dungeness yesterday)

    Officials have warned Home Secretary Priti Patel that 65,000 migrants could cross the Channel this year – more than double last year’s 28,300 record number (Dungeness yesterday)

    Two small boats landed in Dover Marina this morning after a dozen migrants made the dangerous crossing in the dark

    Two small boats landed in Dover Marina this morning after a dozen migrants made the dangerous crossing in the dark

    Home Secretary Priti Patel told MPs that the Government was still pursuing the ‘push-back’ policy, despite mounting concerns that the tactics are illegal and could cause more migrants deaths

    Home Secretary Priti Patel told MPs that the Government was still pursuing the ‘push-back’ policy, despite mounting concerns that the tactics are illegal and could cause more migrants deaths

    SNP MP Dave Doogan branded the announcement ‘military camouflage being used to disguise a political crisis at the heart of Government’.   

    Addressing MPs yesterday, Mr Heappey said: ‘The Government has been exploring every avenue to prevent further crossings and has now appointed defence to take operational primacy for cross-Channel counter-migration operations which will see a much larger and more visible role for the Royal Navy with regards to operational planning, asset co-ordination and operational delivery.

    Asylum seekers ‘could be flown to Rwanda and Ghana for processing’ under ‘Operation Red Meat’ plans to tackle illegal migrant Channel crossings 

    Asylum seekers could be flown to Ghana and Rwanda under Government plans to deter migrant Channel crossings, it was claimed.

    Ministers are said to be drawing up proposals which would see people arriving illegally in the UK sent abroad for processing and resettlement.

    Home Secretary Priti Patel and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss are in talks about ‘outsourcing’ the asylum process to other countries, according to The Times.

    The arrangements would see the UK pay another nation to take on the responsibility but no country has so far agreed to do so.

    It was reported in November last year that Albania was being considered as one potential destination but those talks are said to have collapsed.

    Downing Street would not be drawn on the plans, as the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said it was ‘not helpful’ to discuss negotiations with countries.

    ‘This is a global challenge, it’s right we talk to international partners about how we fix the broken asylum system but I’m not going to get into the detail of those discussions,’ the spokesman said.

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    ‘Throughout the last 12 months, defence has provided a range of support including the provision of surveillance aircraft, additional accommodation, planning expertise and assisted in the delivery of trials for novel tactics to assist the Border Force and Home Office.’

    He went on: ‘Detail of how defence will deliver and maintain primacy of cross-Channel counter migration operations going forward is currently being worked through.

    ‘The Government’s objective is that nobody should arrive illegally in the UK on their own terms, thus all vessels transporting illegal migrants across the Channel must be intercepted before or as they land.’

    However, Sir Edward told MPs: ‘In the absence of ministers having the political will to use pushback, what is the point in appointing a Royal Naval admiral to help Border Force to be a more efficient taxi service so that the migrants will know that now ‘we have got the Royal Navy going to pick us up and we will be taken safety to the UK, and we will be put in a hotel and we will never ever be sent home’?

    ‘This is just an embarrassment. Will the minister now co-ordinate with his colleagues to do what we have been suggesting for months now and that we get rid of the pull factors, namely we reform any piece of legislation that is necessary, including the Human Rights Act, and people who do this illegal crossing are arrested, put in a prison, and then deported?’

    Mr Heappey responded: ‘His exhortations and those of colleagues have been heard.’ He also confirmed the plan is for the Navy to take ‘primacy’ for Channel crossings by ‘the end of the month’.

    Mr Healey claimed the Government is ‘desperate to distract attention from accusations about the Prime Minister lying and partying in Downing Street, desperate to prop up a Home Secretary utterly failing for two years as the number of cross-channel migrants has tripled’.

    He asked: ‘When will the Home Secretary step up to do her job to secure a proper security agreement with the French, break the smuggling gangs, and prevent more tragic deaths of migrants in the channel?’.

    SNP MP Dave Doogan said it is a ‘worrying development’ both ‘operationally and morally’, describing the announcement as ‘military camouflage being used to disguise a political crisis at the heart of Government’.

    He described it as an ‘alarming politically expedient morphing of a civilian crisis into an entirely inappropriate military operation which is doomed to fail’.

    Mr Heappey responded: ‘This is asking the Navy to take primacy from a command-and-control perspective to bring to bear all of the Government’s maritime assets across all agencies that set to sail in order to try to cohere a more robust response at sea, and I think that is an evolution of what we’ve been doing rather than a replacement of something that had been previously existing.’

    Although the MoD confirmed London is exploring ‘every avenue’ to prevent more crossings and the Home Office said it was introducing ‘necessary long-term changes’, little further information has been provided and questions have gone unanswered.

    A military source told The Times: ‘This isn’t about bumping small boats and turning them round – that will never work. You can’t do that in the Channel, it’s too narrow.’ 

    Former first sea lord Admiral Lord West told Radio 4’s The World At One yesterday that giving the military the job of tackling crossings would not alleviate the crisis. 

    A migrant sitting on the beach at Dungeness in Kent while a police officer stands guard on January 18, 2022

    A migrant sitting on the beach at Dungeness in Kent while a police officer stands guard on January 18, 2022

    A migrant arrives at the Port of Dover after being intercepted by the UK Border Force on January 17, 2022

    A migrant arrives at the Port of Dover after being intercepted by the UK Border Force on January 17, 2022

    A dinghy used to carry migrants across the Channel on the beach at Dungeness in Kent on January 18, 2022

    A dinghy used to carry migrants across the Channel on the beach at Dungeness in Kent on January 18, 2022

    A group of migrants including a child were brought ashore by Border Force in Dover Marina this morning as the Channel crisis rages on

    A group of migrants including a child were brought ashore by Border Force in Dover Marina this morning as the Channel crisis rages on

    Two small boats landed in Dover Marina early this morning after more than a dozen migrants made the dangerous crossing in the dark

    Two small boats landed in Dover Marina early this morning after more than a dozen migrants made the dangerous crossing in the dark

    Officials have warned Miss Patel that 65,000 migrants could cross the Channel this year – more than double last year’s 28,300 record number (pictured, a migrant landing at Dover Marina early this morning)

    Officials have warned Miss Patel that 65,000 migrants could cross the Channel this year – more than double last year’s 28,300 record number (pictured, a migrant landing at Dover Marina early this morning)

    A group of migrants including a child were brought ashore by Border Force in Dover Marina this morning as the Channel crisis rages on

    A group of migrants including a child were brought ashore by Border Force in Dover Marina this morning as the Channel crisis rages on

    The Prime Minister has tasked the military with overseeing Border Force and other government agencies operating in the Narrow Sea in an attempt to curb the number of asylum seekers coming from Europe to Britain

    The Prime Minister has tasked the military with overseeing Border Force and other government agencies operating in the Narrow Sea in an attempt to curb the number of asylum seekers coming from Europe to Britain

    Royal Navy vessels and RAF support are expected to be deployed on patrol in UK territorial waters in a bid to tackle the migrant crisis in the Channel

    Royal Navy vessels and RAF support are expected to be deployed on patrol in UK territorial waters in a bid to tackle the migrant crisis in the Channel

    Operation Red Meat: Boris’s attempts to take back control 

    ‘Operation Red Meat’ is expected to include:

    • A No 10 workplace ‘booze ban’ to end the drinking culture that led to party row. Boris Johnson is drafting rules for Downing Street staff that will limit alcohol to being served only at official functions. 
    • Clearout of No 10 staff caught up in party row. Martin Reynolds, Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary who emailed the ‘bring your own booze’ invite for the Downing Street garden party in the first lockdown, and chief of staff Dan Rosenfield, are among those seen as at risk.
    • Two-year BBC licence fee freeze to help ease household bills. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries is expected to confirm that the cost of an annual licence will remain at £159 until 2024.
    • Drive to bring down NHS waiting lists. The number of people on a hospital waiting list in England hit six million for the first time, figures showed last week. In December, nearly 27 per cent of patients at A&E waited more than four hours to be seen – a record high. 
    • Extra money for jobs and skills training to help those out of work and further reduce the number of jobseekers. The unemployment rate fell to 4.2 per cent in the three months to the end of October, down from 4.3 per cent in the three months to the end of September.
    • Get rid of Plan B Covid restrictions, such as the wearing of masks in shops and on public transport and vaccine passports for large events on January 26. 
    • Publication of the Levelling Up white paper. The document, which is being prepared by Michael Gove, will set out the Government’s strategy to improve lives in neglected towns. It is expected to come in the first week of February.
    • As announced last night, the military will be drafted in to tackle illegal immigration in the Channel. Defence chiefs will take charge of efforts to stop the dangerous crossings that have reached record levels this year. Royal Navy boats could be sent to reinforce Border Force’s fleet.
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    He warned: ‘I don’t think it makes any difference really to the problem of more coming across, because if I was a people trafficker, I would say to them all, ‘Get in your little boat and go out there, the Royal Navy is now in control of all of the shipping that is looking out for you. You will be picked up and then you will be pretty well on your way’.

    Ministers are said to be drawing up proposals which would see asylum seekers flown to Ghana and Rwanda to stop migrant crossings. The arrangements would see the UK pay another nation to take on the responsibility – but no country has yet agreed to do so.

    Tony Smith, the former director general of Border Force, said the UK ‘can expect more attempts’ of migrants trying to enter the country illegally as ‘air and ferry traffic return to pre-Covid levels’.

    A Whitehall source told The Telegraph: ‘It is not an estimate or a forecast, it is a planning assumption.

    ‘In part, it demonstrates exactly why we are taking the measures that we are and looking at things like offshoring (the processing of Channel migrants) and outsourcing (operations in the Channel to the military).’ 

    It was reported in November last year that Albania was being considered as one potential destination, but those talks are said to have collapsed.

    Downing Street would not be drawn on the plans as the PM’s Official Spokesman said it was ‘not helpful’ to discuss negotiations with countries.

    The move to ‘offshore’ the processing of migrants came as Mr Johnson activated Britain’s Armed Forces to tackle the small boat crossings.  

    Downing Street refused to comment on ‘speculation’ about the plans but said all options were being pursued.

    Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, told MoD staff during a call on Monday afternoon that the plans were still under discussion but may involve leadership, planning and co-ordination of operations.

    A spokesman for the MoD said: ‘Unacceptable numbers of people continue to make the dangerous Channel crossings and last November’s tragic deaths serve as the strongest reminder of the need to stop them. 

    ‘The Government is exploring every avenue to prevent further crossings and details of how that can be achieved will be made known in due course.’

    The Home Office added: ‘The UK armed forces already work closely with Border Force in these operations, providing expertise and assets as part of our processes in the Channel. It is right that we pursue all options to prevent illegal crossings and protect life at sea.’

    Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Labour would support any ‘sensible’ measures to save lives in the Channel but expressed doubts about the sincerity behind plans, adding: ‘This looks like Boris Johnson is using the situation to chase headlines to distract from the total mess he is in as a result of rule-breaking parties in Number 10.’

    SNP shadow home affairs spokesman Stuart McDonald told the Commons the plans were ‘pathetic’, ‘inhumane and an abuse of the Royal Navy’.

    Clare Moseley, founder of charity Care4Calais, said a military response is ‘not just disproportionate, it’s inhumane.’

    Commons Defence Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood told Sky the plans were ‘rushed’ and warned they could be a ‘massive distraction’ for the navy.

    Royal Navy vessels and RAF support are expected to be deployed on patrol in UK territorial waters as part of a policy blitz dubbed ‘Operation Red Meat’.

    For the first time, the UK Border Force will be placed under a military chain of command in the fight against people traffickers. 

    Officials hope the involvement of the Armed Forces will have a significant ‘deterrent effect’.

    ‘The command of Border Force, which oversees incidents in the Channel, will move over to the Ministry of Defence,’ a Whitehall source said.

    ‘This will take place by the end of the month or early February. Within a couple of weeks there will be a demonstrable change in how the Channel operation takes place. It makes a lot of sense.’

    Miss Patel first requested military involvement in summer 2020, when the numbers crossing from France stood at just a few thousand a year.  

    Minister for Justice and Tackling Illegal Migration Tom Pursglove said: ‘People fleeing persecution should seek safety in the first safe country they reach and not risk their lives paying criminal gangs to cross the Channel.

    ‘This government is reforming our approach to illegal entry to the UK and asylum by making the tough decisions to end the overt exploitation of our laws and its impact on UK taxpayers.

    ‘The public have rightly had enough of the blatant disregard of our immigration laws and we are bringing in necessary long-term changes.’