Mother clutching baby to chest is among 200 migrants seen scrambling up Kent beach – as it is claimed asylum seekers are getting crucifix tattoos to ‘prove’ they have converted to Christianity
A newborn baby clutching its mother’s chest was among 200 migrants who sailed ashore along the Kent coastline yesterday.
Video footage shows the aftermath of three boats landing on the shoreline near Dungeness, with around 65 exhausted people crammed onto each one.
Witnesses described coaches filled mostly with men being led away from the shingle beach by Border Force officials.
Paul Fenney, 40, from Folkestone, Kent, was enjoying a family walk when he saw the latest landings.
Migrants huddle together on the beach at Dungeness yesterday after three crammed boats arrived on the shoreline
A newborn baby clutched to its mother’s chest was among around 200 migrants that arrived on the Kent coastline yesterday
Mr Fenney said: ‘I saw three ambulances, three coaches and about 40 police and RNLI boats.
‘There was one coach already full and on the back it said it was an 87-seater and the coach in front had about ten people on it, and when we walked to the sea there were about 90 there.
‘There were three boats and they were obviously overloaded. There was a newborn baby that was rushed away with female paramedics and its mother.
‘We saw ten little lads, they looked like they were on their own. They were walking in a group with Border Force people.
‘The majority were men – I only saw that one lady with the very small baby clutched to her chest.’
Just one of the three boats – each estimated to have been crammed with about 65 people – which landed in Kent yesterday. A mother and infant child are understood to be pictured in front of the boat.
Witnesses taking a walk in Dungeness described how they saw coachloads full of mainly men being taken away by Border Force officials
The news comes amid reports that some asylum seekers are getting tattoos of Jesus and cruxifixes as evidence they have converted to Christianity and cannot be returned to the Middle East on religious grounds.
Immigration appeal judgments over the last five years show that over 20 asylum claimants have tattoos connected to Christianity, atheism and homosexuality, the Sunday Telegraph reports.
In each of these cases, the tattoos were used to argue the risk individuals face if returned to their Muslim home countries, many of which deem leaving the Islamic faith and being gay as criminal offences.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing increasing pressure from his own party to adopt a tougher stance on migrants crossing the channel, as a poll for the Sunday Telegraph showed 77 per cent of Tory voters felt the Government’s approach was ‘too soft’.
Senior party figures warned Mr Johnson that a shift to the political centre would ‘open up a gap’ on the PM’s right flank, leaving space for another party which could cost the Tories a majority at a future election.
The Tory MP for South Thanet in Kent, Craig Mackinlay, today told the BBC’s The World This Weekend programme that the issue will cost him votes as he said the current situation ‘looks like state failure’.
Last week, the Church of England robustly defended itself after it emerged suicide bomber Emad Al Swealmeen, 32, who blew himself up in Liverpool on Remembrance Sunday, had converted to Christianity before his death.
He spent eight months living with a Christian activists Malcolm and Elizabeth Hitchcott in 2017 and had been pictured at services at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.
In a statement, the Church of England said it was ‘not the role of clergy’ to determine whether an asylum claim was legitimate.
Emad Al Swealmeen (right), 32, who blew himself up in Liverpool on Remembrance Sunday, pictured at a service at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral
Al Swealmeen had been refused permission to appeal to remain in the UK and had previously been sectioned under the Mental Health Act after he was rejected for asylum as far back as 2014.
Home Secretary Priti Patel criticised the ‘merry-go-round’ asylum process, which she claimed was being exploited through the use of legal aid.
In the past five years, over 20 asylum claims have featured religious tattoos of Jesus and crucifixes as evidence of the risk posed to the individual if they return to their home countries
While many asylum seekers who get religious tattoos are granted asylum, a 25-year-old man in Bradford was referred back to Ian in 2018 after the judge found his tattoo ‘did not genuinely reflect the faith of the appellant.’
Another case in Birmingham in 2018, saw an Iranian man with a tattoo of a cruxifix allowed to remain, despite an earlier hearing concluding the image was ‘obtained for the sole purpose of enchancing his chances’ of gaining asylum.
A further case in Manchester last year saw a young Iranian man granted leave to remain after a Christian clergywoman gave evidence that she was satisfied his religious conversion was genuine. The tribunal heard the church’s special services were attended by over 130 people from 37 countries, including 70 from Iran.
Official figures have not been confirmed but it is estimated that hundreds of people made the journey to Dungeness yesterday.
Meanwhile, French officials said 243 people in difficulty were recovered and brought to safety at the ports of Boulogne-sur-Mer, Dunkirk and Calais.
More than 24,700 people have arrived in the UK so far this year after making the Channel crossing in small boats – almost three times the number there were in 2020.
The Home Office has been contacted for comment.