By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) – Britain’s Home Secretary met her French counterpart on Wednesday as the UK pressured France to do more to stop a wave of migrants trying to cross the Channel in small boats.
Dozens of women, men and children, wrapped in blankets, were disembarked in the port of Dover in south-east England on Wednesday by British Border Force boats after being recovered on canoes in the English Channel.
Thousands of migrants have landed on the beaches of south-eastern England in recent days in calm summer weather, with 785 arriving on Monday alone, according to the British Home Office. More than 12,000 people have crossed the border this year, according to the British news agency Press Association. In 2020, approximately 8,500 people made the trip and several died in the attempt.
Migrants have long used the north of France as a starting point to reach Britain, either by pulling up onto trucks or ferries, or – increasingly since the coronavirus pandemic disrupted international travel – in canoes and other small boats organized by smugglers.
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The British and French governments worked for years to stop travel, with little success. Earlier this year, Britain agreed to give France Â£ 54million ($ 74million) to help fund a doubling of the number of police patrols on French beaches.
The money has yet to be paid and UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has suggested she could withhold it if France does not do more to prevent the departure of the contraband boats. She will meet with France’s Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin at a two-day meeting of G-7 home ministers in London that begins Wednesday.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said stopping the crossings largely depends on French authorities.
“We depend to a large extent on what the French are doing, but it is clear that as time goes by and this problem persists, we are going to have to make sure that we use all possible tactics at our disposal to stop what I think is vile commerce and manipulation of people’s hopes, âhe told House of Commons lawmakers.
Refugee charities said the UK government’s harsh rhetoric was unnecessary and urged the government to make it easier for asylum seekers to enter the UK safely.
Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said Patel should “reach an agreement with her French counterpart to develop a humanitarian visa which would give safe passage to those who are likely to be recognized as refugees in the UK”.
French lawmaker Pierre-Henri Dumont, who represents the Calais region in northern France, said authorities were doing all they could.
âThe point is that we have 300 to 400 kilometers (190 to 250 miles) of shoreline to watch every day and night, and it is quite impossible to have police officers every 100 meters (330 feet) to because of the length of the shore, âhe told the BBC.
“We cannot stop all crossings,” he added. âWe need to tackle the causes of migration.
Follow AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration
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