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Channel migrant crossings hit new 24-hour record — UK gov’t

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A British police officer stands guard on the beach of Dungeness, England, as Royal National Lifeboat Institution members help migrants to disembark from one of their lifeboats after they were picked up at sea while attempting to cross the English Channel on June 15, 2022. (File photo: AFP)

LONDON — The number of people crossing the Channel to the UK from northern France in small boats has hit a new high, the government in London said on Tuesday.اضافة اعلان

Some 1,295 migrants were detected on Monday, beating the previous single-day record of 1,185 on November 11, 2021, the Ministry of Defense said.

The issue has caused a major political headache for the UK government, which promised tighter border controls after leaving the European Union.

Tensions have risen between London and Paris, with the UK government accusing France of not doing enough to stop the crossings.

So far this year there have been some 22,670 crossings. At the same point in 2021, nearly 12,500 had been intercepted making the journey.

Last year, the UK authorities brought ashore a total of 28,526 people as they tried to cross the busy shipping lane.

Groups helping migrants in the French Channel port of Calais said favorable weather conditions were likely behind the record numbers crossing on Monday.

Juliette Delaplace, from the charity Catholic Aid, said the increase was not surprising, and some 1,500 people were currently in local camps.

“There’s always a seasonal rise because it’s very hard to survive on the streets of Calais in winter,” she told AFP.

Deportation

But Nikolai Posner, from the Utopia 56 organization, said a hardening of political attitudes towards migrants was to blame.

“Not everyone wants to go to England. That choice is a result of the unwelcoming policies and violence in France and Europe,” he added.

Greece has similarly accused neighboring Turkey of not doing enough to stop people smugglers from sending migrants across the Mediterranean Sea.

But Athens has also been accused of illegally turning back migrants.

To try to address the issue, the UK has tightened immigration laws to target people-smuggling gangs behind the crossings.

Rights groups have said the legislation also runs the risk of criminalizing migrants seeking asylum from violence and persecution in their homelands.

But most controversial is a partnership deal with Rwanda signed earlier this year to send some migrants to the African country for resettlement.

Deportation flights though have been stymied by a series of legal challenges in the UK courts and at the European Court of Human Rights.

The first flight in June was due to see some 130 asylum seekers sent to the Rwandan capital Kigali, but the numbers were whittled down to zero because of court action.

Groups representing asylum seekers are due to challenge the legality of the policy in court from next month.

‘Whatever it takes’

The UK government has defended the policy as necessary because the costs involved in processing asylum claims and housing migrants are too high.

It is also looking at changing human rights legislation to make it easier to deport asylum seekers deemed to have entered the UK illegally.

Both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, who are vying to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister following his resignation, have backed the Rwanda scheme.

With predictions some 60,000 people could cross this year, Truss said she would extend the plan.

Sunak said he would do “whatever it takes” to make it work.

But British MPs have questioned the deterrent effect of the deportation plan, saying there was “no clear evidence” it would stop crossings.

Since Home Secretary Priti Patel signed the deal with Rwanda four months ago, more than 17,400 people have crossed the Channel in small boats.

Lawmakers instead called for closer cooperation with the UK’s European neighbors, including intelligence sharing, to tackle criminal gangs.

In France, Utopia 56’s Posner echoed calls from Amnesty International and others for better coordination between the two countries and the introduction of safe routes for migrants.

The UK parliament’s Home Affairs committee said a total of 48,450 applications for asylum were made in 2021 — similar to every year since 2014.

The lawmakers blamed the backlog of more than 125,000 cases on “antiquated IT systems, high staff turnover and too few staff”.

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