Hundreds of migrants brave freezing weather to cross English Channel

Hundreds of migrants braved freezing temperatures to cross the English Channel in dinghies over the weekend on busiest day of illegal crossings so far this year

  • Hundreds of illegal migrants reportedly made the crossing to the UK on Sunday 
  • It comes amid fears the number of migrants sailing to the UK could it 80,000 

Hundreds of migrants risked their lives in sub-zero conditions to illegally cross the English Channel over the weekend.

People smugglers took advantage of the calm conditions on Saturday evening to sail a mass of asylum seekers from France – as temperatures in the south of England plunged to -5 degrees C.

Groups, reportedly in eight boats, were brought ashore early on Sunday morning after being intercepted by UK Border Force personnel as they attempted the treacherous 21-mile crossing of the Dover Straits. 

Among the people rescued included a small baby, children, women and men, with one witness claiming about 250 migrants had crossed in all – while other reports suggested as many at 380 asylum seekers had arrived.    

Dozens of migrants are pictured getting off a UK Border Force boat in Dover on Sunday having made the perilous 21-mile trip across the English Channel 

It’s believed migrants set sail from Gravelines, near Dunkirk, France. They were all brought into the harbour at Dover, Kent on Border Force vessels through the weekend. 

The Ministry of Defence, which currently overseas operations in the English Channel to coordinate migrant crossings, has yet to confirm the numbers for Sunday but is expected to do so later today.

The French coastguard confirmed they also prevented a further 53 asylum seekers from reaching the UK the same day.

French rescue ship Abeille Normandie was tasked with assisting a boat in difficulty off the coast on Sunday, recovering the 53 stranded migrants and dropping them off at the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer.

Once docked at the French Port, they were taken care of by the departmental fire and rescue service, the maritime medical coordination, and the border police.

Meanwhile, French naval vessels are understood to have shadowed the other dinghies are they headed towards British territory, with the military having a policy of not intervening to intercept the inflatables once they get into the water. 

The crossings are the second this week despite biting temperatures, with 106 people making the dangerous voyage on January 17. While 44 migrants illegally completed the perilous crossing on January 2.

Those rescued by the authorities included men, women and children – with a small baby believed to be among the people to have been escorted into Dover on Sunday

Last year was the biggest year on record after 45,728 people arrived in 1,104 boats. – dwarfing 2021’s total of 28,526.

August saw 8,641 people arrive in Britain by inflatable dinghy or other small craft – the most migrants to reach the UK in one month.

And the busiest day came on August 22 when 1,295 migrants arrived in Britain over a 24-hour period.

But there are fears that 2023 could see the crisis deepen even further, with Government officials predicting a whopping 80,000 people could try to cross the Channel this year – almost double 2022’s record-breaking figure. 

Albanian gangs have already launched a TikTok advertising blitz offering stowaway trips to the UK, with criminals demanding up to £18,000 a head – boasting of a ‘100 per cent success’ record. 

Ahead of a supposed crackdown on small boat arrivals, the people smugglers are demanding up to £18,000 a head at they boast having a ‘100 per cent success’ rate

Unlike small boat arrivals, who are usually collected by lifeboats and passed to Border Force officials, lorry migrants disappear on arrival.

The latest crossings came on the same day that it was revealed that ministers had spent £20.8 million deploying the Royal Navy to try and halt the crisis.

Navy vessels were first deployed to assist Border Force last April by ex-PM Boris Johnson, who said it would mean ‘no boat makes it to the UK undetected’.

And a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Defence on Sunday uncovered that taxpayers had stumped up £87,097 daily, £535 a migrant, under Operation Isotrope which is due to end on January 31 which the role is handed back to Border Force.

The revelation shocked Dover MP Natalie Elphicke, who told The Sun: ‘This huge cost yet again underlines the importance of bringing this small boats crisis to an end.’ 

Meanwhile it emerged last week that three out of five of Britain’s Broder Force cutters are currently undergoing maintenance instead of patrolling the English Channel protecting the nation’s coastline.

HMC Valiant, pictured, is undergoing a £2 million ‘ship life extension programme’ 

HMP Protector, pictured, has been moored in Lowestoft, Suffolk for at least six months. It has been tied up for so long that it has been mapped on Google Street View

HMC Protector, Valiant and Seeker are all tied up in Lowestoft, Suffolk where they are all undergoing repairs, or recertification.

HMC Protector was bought second hand from the Finnish Navy in 2013. According to marine tracking data it has been moored up for the past six months awaiting safety certification works which were due to last 25 days. 

HMC Seeker is also undergoing work expected to cost up to £123,000 and due to last up to 25 days.

A Home Office official said: ‘Our utmost priority is protecting the safety of the public, the maintenance of Border Force’s vessels is managed throughout the year to ensure that this does not impact on our operational effectiveness.’

They did not provide any comment on why the three cutters were out of service at the same time. 

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