Border Force wants migrant boats turned around and taken back to France after crossings soar


The government has said it wants to see migrant boats intercepted at sea and directly returned to France in a bid to curb recent increases in Channel crossings.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has appointed a “clandestine Channel threat commander” who will work to make the route “unviable for small boat crossings”.

Dan O’Mahoney, a former Border Force official and marine deployed to Kosovo and Iraq, will work with the French to explore what tougher action can be taken including “adopting interceptions at sea and the direct return of boats”.

Britain wants Paris to stop more small vessels heading to England and take them back to French ports, rather than shepherding them onward until they reach British waters.

A government source told Sky News on Saturday that a “passive blockade” in the Channel was being considered, with the Ministry of Defence being asked for assistance by the Home Office amid reports the Navy could be brought in.

Migrants after crossing the channel 08082020
A group of migrants are seen sat against a Border Force van waiting to be processed in Kent

Immigration minister Chris Philp will meet his French counterparts next week as he seeks to shut down the Calais-to-Britain route completely.

It comes after recent calm conditions prompted a huge surge in people trying to make the journey.

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Kent County Council has said that 400 migrant children have been taken into its care this year, including 60 in the first week of August and 23 on Friday alone.

A pregnant woman walks near the coast of Dungeness after arriving in the UK. Pic: Susan Pilcher
A pregnant woman walks near the coast of Dungeness after arriving in the UK this week. Pic: Susan Pilcher

Ministers are believed to be looking at surveillance, reconnaissance and command controls as potential ways of reducing crossings.

But Helen Baron, a solicitor who is representing a number of migrants who arrived in the UK by boat, says the tactics are illegal and could risk lives.

“It’s completely illegal under international law and it’s deeply concerning that these kind of statements are coming out of government, they must know it’s completely against the law”, she said.

Some 4,000 migrants have already crossed the channel this year with more arriving during the clear weather this week.

UK heatwave allows more migrants to cross the Channel

Former Labour shadow home secretary Diane Abbott commented: “The danger is that if you try and blockade these boats, which are mostly rubber dinghies and mostly steered by people who are not experienced sailors, then the boats tip over and people die.”

But Ms Patel said: “The number of illegal small boat crossings is appalling.

“We are working to make this route unviable and arresting the criminals facilitating these crossings and making sure they are brought to justice.”

Border Force representatives meet migrants at Kingsdown in Kent

Migrants met by Border Force in Kent

On Saturday morning in Kingsdown in Kent, a boat carrying 14 people – including two pregnant women and a child – arrived on the shore, an eyewitness told Sky News.

She said: “A pregnant lady had to be assisted off by the ambulance service to go to hospital because she was clearly about to give birth.

“It was a mad show… I’ve never seen anything like that in my time. It was literally just random and just popped up on shore… All the border patrol and the coastguard were coming down at the same time because they caught them all at the same time when they got in.”

Witness describes seeing the arrival of migrants in a dinghy on a beach in Kent

Migrants beach landing ‘was a mad show’

Another dinghy with 12 people on board was later filmed being intercepted by a Border Force patrol boat.

A vessel carrying 19 people and a migrant in a wheelchair was also among those seen being brought ashore at Dover this weekend.

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