Wednesday 18 September 2019

Minister returns early from holiday to address 'major' migrant crisis in UK

Crisis: Migrants aboard a rubber boat after being intercepted by French officials off the port of Calais on Christmas Day
Crisis: Migrants aboard a rubber boat after being intercepted by French officials off the port of Calais on Christmas Day

Gareth Davis

British home secretary Sajid Javid is cutting short a family holiday to deal with the "major incident" of a rising number of migrants attempting to cross the English Channel by boat, immigration minister Caroline Nokes has said.

Speaking during a visit to Dover, Ms Nokes said: "I can't comment on his whereabouts for security reasons, but he is on his way back and he will be at his desk on Monday.

British home secretary Sajid Javid. Photo: PA
British home secretary Sajid Javid. Photo: PA

"He is taking control of the situation and I am in regular contact with him, and we had a conference call just yesterday."

Last Friday night, Mr Javid resisted calls for more patrol boats to be deployed to the Channel to tackle the migrant crisis despite declaring it a "major incident".

The home secretary broke off from his holiday to "take control" of the situation as a further 12 migrants landed in Dover, bringing to 90 the number rescued since Christmas Day.

But yesterday it was revealed he was heading back to Westminster to take command.

Despite pressure from Tory colleagues, French politicians and the military, Mr Javid is reluctant to order additional boats to the Channel, for fear it could encourage more migrants to attempt the crossing.

A Home Office source said: "We believe we have enough boats operationally to deal with it. The bigger issue is to prevent the migrants coming in the first place by targeting the people smugglers."

It was unclear on Friday night, however, what further action the Home Office planned to take, beyond the current sea patrols and ongoing joint Anglo-French operations involving the National Crime Agency (NCA).

As he declared the crisis a "major incident", Mr Javid, who is seen as a potential successor to Theresa May, appointed a "Gold Commander" to oversee the situation and was briefed by officials from the Border Force, NCA and Immigration Enforcement.

He was planning to hold talks this weekend with his French counterpart, interior minister Christophe Castaner, to establish how joint operations could be extended and what more could be done to stop the traffickers.

In response to calls for extra boats in the Channel, Mr Javid has commissioned the Border Force to review options and decide "whether this is likely to encourage more people to try to make the crossing rather than act as a deterrents".

© Telegraph

Word on the streets - now is a good time to go

Word is spreading in Calais that now is a good time to make a move. Since Christmas Eve, 90 migrants in 10 different boats have attempted to cross the English Channel.

Some 71 people have made it to the UK, either by navigating the busy waterway, or by being picked up in British waters by border force patrol boats.

Since the start of November, 280 people, mostly Iranian, have been intercepted by authorities on both sides of the Channel with the British picking up 201 and the French, 79. It is believed at least 60 people have made it to the UK undetected. The surge in numbers over Christmas has been blamed on mild weather, calm seas and smuggling gangs seeking to exploit the holiday period, where border agencies may be short-staffed.

Inside the migrant camps in Dunkirk and Calais, French police are applying physical and psychological pressure on migrants by raiding camps and dispersing the inhabitants, sometimes using tear gas and batons.

In July, there were just 11 camp raids in Calais. In October, that number had increased to 78.

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