Almost 600 migrant Channel crossings at weekend

Image source, EPA
Image caption, The number of migrants crossing the Channel has been rising

The home secretary pledged her "unwavering determination" to stop migrants crossing the English channel after nearly 600 people were intercepted over the weekend.

On Sunday, 378 migrants crossed the Channel on 12 boats and the French are understood to have stopped 178 people in five interceptions.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has pledged to make Channel crossings "unviable".

In a statement released on Sunday, she said: "The British public should be in no doubt of our unwavering determination to stop these dangerous crossings from safe EU countries and take down the evil criminal gangs behind them.

"We are utilising all aspects of government to tackle this issue and our significant actions are having an impact."

New legislation being considered by MPs would make it a crime to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission.

Ministers hope the overhaul of asylum rules will deter migrants making the crossing.

But the plans have been criticised by charities including Refugee Action, which has called them "extreme and nasty".

The boats being used by migrants crossing the English Channel are getting bigger, making the journey more dangerous.

The number of people making the crossing has been rising, with this year's total already above the whole of 2020's, and June setting a new monthly record.

The journey across one on the busiest shipping lanes in the world - often in small dinghies that are overcrowded - is a dangerous one.

In an attempt to stem the rise in crossings, the UK government last week reached a £54.2m deal with French government in which France has agreed to double the number of police patrolling its beaches, fund improved intelligence sharing and introduce better technology to target the gangs who organise the crossings.

However, some MPs have questioned whether it will have an impact, pointing out that a previously agreed £28.2m deal last November failed to limit crossings.

Giving evidence to MPs, she said there had been a "complete change in modus operandi in terms of the crossings", with a "widespread dispersal" of launches of small boats "along the whole French coastline" rather than people just coming from Calais.

But Calais MP Pierre-Henri Dumont suggested it would not have an impact as the French coastline is too long to patrol.

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