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‘Direct link’ between spike in migrants trying to cross Channel and evictions

UK News | Published:

At least 86 men, women and children made it to the UK on Tuesday which is thought to be the most in a single day so far.

There is a “direct correlation” between a spike in the number of migrants trying to cross the Channel and large-scale evictions of camps in France, aid workers have claimed.

The dire living conditions and heightened security are also playing a part in prompting more people to risk their lives by taking to small boats in a bid to reach the UK coast, according to Help Refugees.

The comments from the charity – which provides humanitarian aid and advocacy for refugees – come as scores of people were cleared from camps in Calais on Thursday and another large site in a Dunkirk gym is due to be evicted after a court order was issued.

Maddy Allen, the charity’s field manager in northern France, told the PA news agency: “I’m deeply concerned about the rise in boat crossings in the last few months.

“There is a direct correlation between this and the imminent large-scale evictions of the camps, the living conditions and the securitisation.

“The crossings are becoming more and more dangerous.

“There is a lot of misinformation spreading around the camps. This is causing a lot of uncertainty.

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“People are not being presented with accurate information and access to the right support.”

She said evictions are now as regular as three times a day in some of the camps, adding: “People are just sleeping on the side of the road.”

French police officers move migrants on from a camp in Calais
French police officers move migrants on from a camp in Calais (Steve Parsons/PA)

Migrants are “openly talking” about swimming the Channel rather than getting a boat, to avoid the financial cost and because they are beginning to see it as one of the only options left.

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There have been several deaths in recent weeks, Ms Allen said.

In response to reports of French politician Pierre-Henri Dumont claiming migrants are being told “the crossing will close” if Britain leaves the EU and this is prompting the surge in crossings, she said: “It is not a direct link to Brexit.”

Care4Calais has called on the UK Government to provide “safe legal routes” for migrants by setting up a centre in France so asylum applications can be submitted and processed before they enter the country.

The charity thinks this would put a stop to the rise of Channel crossings as the paperwork is already being processed and so would stop smugglers in their tracks as fewer people would turn to them for help.

Typically smugglers – known as “passeurs” in French – will tour the camps approaching families and encouraging them to take boat trips, charity workers said.

It is thought the migrants are told to gather in the middle of the night to take a taxi or get picked up by one of the gang and are taken to a meeting point. From there they will walk for around an hour to a beach near Calais or Dunkirk before racing to the boat and into the water.

There are varying reports of the price this can cost. But it is said to be anything from 800 to 2,000 euro for an individual and up to 6,000 euro for a family.

A Border Force cutter on patrol,
A Border Force cutter on patrol, near Dover in Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Some 21 migrants – including three children – were picked up by UK authorities on Wednesday morning with one being taken to hospital after becoming unwell, the Home Office said.

On Thursday police cleared a camp in Calais for the second time in two days.

Groups of migrants were seen wandering along a main road carrying their belongings in bin bags after being moved on by groups of police. Tents were taken away and rubbish started to be cleared from the site.

Another camp in the Espace Jeunes du Moulin gym in Dunkirk, which is housing families with young children, is expected to be cleared by police in the coming days.

Border Force cutters are continuing to patrol the Channel while drones, CCTV and night vision goggles are used.

Last month, Home Secretary Priti Patel said urgent action was needed to put a stop to the wave of crossings, after she met French interior minister Christophe Castaner in Paris.

More detail on the action plan is yet to be released.

The Home Office declared the matter a major incident under former home secretary Sajid Javid and pledged millions of pounds to tackle the crisis, dispatching the three cutters.

A plan drawn up in January included a £6 million investment in security equipment, CCTV coverage of beaches and ports and a mutual commitment to return migrants under international and domestic laws, the department said.

But the number of migrants taken in by UK authorities so far this year is thought to have already passed 1,000.

The Home Office and the French Interior Ministry have been contacted for comment.

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