Monday, January 17, 2022

Temperatures near freezing cannot prevent 271 people from crossing the English Channel

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Temperatures near freezing in the English Channel didn’t stop dozens of people from making the dangerous crossing from France on Thursday.

A small child wrapped in an orange life jacket and wearing a cap was among at least 271 people who made the journey aboard 10 small boats.

Border Force and the RNLI were busy in the cold Dover Straits from 1am when calm conditions led to a spate of attempts to reach the UK.

The 271 people known to have arrived in Kent, confirmed by the Home Office on Thursday night, is more than the total for January last year.

So far, more than 450 people have made the life-threatening journey across the Channel in small boats after a record year in 2021.

Commenting on the day’s arrivals, Steve Valdez-Symonds, Director of Refugee and Migrant Rights at Amnesty International UK, said: “People making these dangerous sea crossings are doing it out of desperation, mainly because there are no safe and legal ways to get around seeking asylum in this country, and many have family and other connections here.

“Ministers should stop shirking their responsibilities towards refugees.

“For example, it is misleading and indeed verging on cruelty for ministers and officials to speak of France as a ‘safe country’ when many people who are perfectly entitled to seek asylum in Britain are living in deplorable and dangerous conditions Camps are imprisoned in the north of the country, France.

“The British and French governments should prioritize humane ways of fulfilling their shared duty to grant asylum.”

It was announced last week that Border Force officials could take industrial action over Priti Patel’s plans to turn dinghies back in the English Channel.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), whose members include around 80% of the Border Force officers who would be tasked with implementing the “pushbacks,” and the charity Care4Calais have filed a request for judicial review of the pushback policy.

Despite the Home Secretary’s pledge to make crossings a “rare phenomenon” by spring 2020, more than 36,000 people have managed to reach the UK in the last two years.

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