First migrants cross The Channel since new Brexit deal came into force

First migrants cross The Channel since Brexit as dinghy carrying 10 people is intercepted by Border Force patrol in -1C freeze after record 8,410 made treacherous journey in 2020

  • Group of 10 migrants intercepted in Channel and brought to Dover on Saturday
  • The group after the first to make it across the Channel since Brexit deal came in
  • Changes mean UK no longer accepts asylum at sea, but little practical impact
  • Law change paves way to send groups back to France, but a deal is first needed
  • In total, 8,410 migrants made perilous crossing from France to the UK last year 

The first migrants to cross The Channel since the UK’s new Brexit deal came into force have been brought into Dover – after more than 8,400 made the dangerous crossing last year.

One boat carrying around 10 people was intercepted and brought into Dover Marina, Kent shortly before 5am on Saturday.

Border Force towed the blue and white rigid hulled inflatable boat into the harbour before escorting the migrants up the gangway to be processed.

The men, wearing face masks, red lifejackets and wrapped in white blankets for warmth, appeared to be shivering from the bitter -1C temperature.

Former MEP and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage posted about the incident on Twitter, saying: ‘The first migrant boat of 2021. Brexit Britain needs to stop this.’

He included a video of the migrants being brought ashore in Dover on Saturday.

It comes after groups of migrants attempted the perilous crossing either side of the end of the Brexit transition deal – with one group being rescued and brought to Dover on New Year’s Eve and another being rescued by French officials on New Year’s Day.

The latest incident comes after groups of migrants attempted the perilous crossing either side of the end of the Brexit transition deal. Pictured: Migrants are brought ashore in Dover on December 31

One group were rescued and brought to Dover on New Year’s Eve and another being rescued by French officials on New Year’s Day (pictured: Migrants are rescued and brought back to France on New Year’s Day)

Though Britain’s new trade deal came into force on January 1, and new laws on asylum seekers along with it, the rules remain largely the same for those attempting the crossing.

Britain has said it will no longer accept asylum claims at sea, paving a way for those crossing The Channel to be returned to France.

But the UK will not be permitted to do that until an agreement with France is reached.

Home Secretary Priti Patel signed a new deal with France at the end of November, after 757 people crossed, in an attempt to prevent crossings from disembarking from their shores.

She pledged up to £28milllion to double patrols along a 90-mile stretch of French coastline to scupper people smuggling gangs – seen as one of the root causes of the issue.

The latest migrant crossing comes after three people attempted to make the perilous 21-mile journey by small boat on New Year’s Day just hours after the end of the Brexit transition period.

They had called French emergency services after getting into difficulty off Equihen-Plage.

The French Navy warship Rhône and coastguard patrol vessel Jacques Oudart Fourmentin and coastal maritime surveillance boat Scarp were all scrambled to their dramatic rescue.

The coastguard vessel took the three migrants, one suffering from hypothermia, and their boat back to border police at Boulogne-sur-Mer shortly before 1pm.

Figures show a record 8,410 migrants made the treacherous Channel crossing by small boat last year – four times more than the 1,850 who made the journey in the whole of 2019.

A total of 211 people made it to UK shores in December following 33 arriving on New Year’s Eve.

The busiest month of the year was September when 1,954 migrants arrived – more than the entirety of last year. 

September 2 saw the most migrants arrive in a single day ever as a record 416 made the dangerous journey on 28 boats.

Migrants rescued from the Channel disembark from a customs ship and are cared for by the medical staff on the dock of port on New Year’s Day in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France

The month capped off an unprecedentedly busy Summer for Border Force and lifeboat crews as 1,468 migrants made the journey in August and 1,118 arrived in July.

Nine people are known to have died in the attempt this year including a family of five and two other men who drowned in October in one incident when their boat capsized off Dunkirk.

The bodies of Kurdish-Iranian Rasoul Iran-Nejad, 35, Shiva Mohammad Panahi, 35, Anita, nine, and Armin, six, were recovered.

But 15 month old Artin’s body has still not been found, along with two other men who also perished in the tragedy.

Two other men who were on board the boat when it capsized off Loon-Plage near Dunkirk at around 9.30am are also believed to have died from the same boat.

Also in October an Iranian man in his 20s drowned and was found washed up on a beach. He was only identified as BB.

In August Sudanese man Abdulfatah Hamdallah, aged 28, drowned trying to make the crossing with a friend.

A total of 463 reached the UK that month. 

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