Connect with us

Featured

Migrants crossing English Channel ‘don’t fear being removed from UK’, MPs hear | Politics News

Published

on

Migrants are paying an average of £5,000 to cross the English Channel and do not fear being removed once they get to the UK, MPs have been told.

Hundreds of people, the majority of them claiming to be Iranian, have tried to make the dangerous crossing in small boats in recent months.

An increase in crossings at the end of last year prompted Home Secretary Sajid Javid to declare a “major incident” and order two Border Force boats to be redeployed to the Channel.

He also questioned whether those making the journey were genuine asylum seekers.

On Tuesday, MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee heard from top law enforcement officers about the issue.

Britain's Home Secretary Sajid Javid speaks to members of the media after meeting with UK Border Force staff on the quayside at Dover, in south-east England on January 2, 2019
Image:
Sajid Javid declared a ‘major incident’ over the crossings

They were told that the majority of those who manage to make it across the Channel claim asylum upon arrival.

In some instances they have paid £5,000 on average to “facilitators” who arrange the journey, with the price being asked for varying based on the level of risk involved.

MPs heard that there has been a significant shift in the behaviour of the migrants.

They are seeking out the authorities, in some instances even calling 999 from their boats, rather than trying to get into Britain undetected.

Steve Rodhouse, director-general of operations at the National Crime Agency, said: “People are actively seeking being caught or engaging with UK authorities because rightly or wrongly, they don’t fear being returned.

“That, I think, is something that is a significant player in the issue here.

“I know that Home Office colleagues if they were here… will say there have been a number of returns.

“It’s not my area of expertise at all.

“But I think at the moment it is in the minds of the facilitators and in the minds of those people willing to make the journey that there is a very low risk that they will be returned.”







January: 18 suspected migrants detained after separate landings

He emphasised that it is an “extremely dangerous” route, noting that general maritime only accounts for a small fraction of the total of around 35,000 attempted clandestine entries a year.

More than 500 migrants tried to cross the Channel in small boats in 2018, with four in five attempting the voyage in the final three months of the year.

Around 40% of these were disrupted by French law enforcement or saw those attempting the journey returned to France via agencies in the country.

While around 250 people tried to cross the Channel in December, this fell to approximately 90 last month.

There have been further crossings this month – a boat carrying 13 suspected migrants was intercepted by the Border Force on Tuesday.



Migrants in Dungeness



What can the government do?

Mr Rodhouse attributed the drop – in part – due to the weather.

“I think this is likely to be an enduring challenge for us, particularly as we move into the summer months,” he told MPs on the committee.

Commenting on the fact that the majority claim asylum in the UK, Mr Rodhouse said: “That’s quite significant for us.

“Typically, in the past if people had been using what we call general maritime, they would be doing so in a clandestine fashion.

“What we see in the matters we are talking about today is markedly different because the business model is essentially for the migrants to reach the point where they can engage with UK authorities, whether that be on land or at sea, and claim asylum at that point.”



Sajid Javid



‘People shouldn’t be taking this dangerous journey’

Kent Police Chief Constable Alan Pughsley told the committee: “On some occasions, from their own boats they are phoning 999 and asking for our help.”

Mr Rodhouse suggested that the “changing and deteriorating” economy in Iran has caused people who have the means to do so to leave the country.

He said around three-quarters of those who attempt the journey did so with the aid of a “facilitator”, adding: “The amount it costs varies.

“On average it is about £5,000 a person.

“It can be a lot less, it can be a lot more, depending on the relative safety promises.”

Advertisement Find your dream job

Trending