Major incident declared after string of migrant Channel crossings over Christmas

Major incident declared after string of migrant Channel crossings over Christmas

Mr Javid has come under growing pressure to act, and cut short a family holiday in South Africa to address the issue.

Lucy Moreton, a spokesman for the Immigration Services Union, said it was "very hard to know" how much the French authorities were doing.

He added: "While we have obligations to genuine asylum seekers... we will not stand by and allow reckless criminals to take advantage of some of the most vulnerable people in our global society".

Mr Javid took the decision to return to the United Kingdom amid calls from MPs for the Royal Navy to be sent in or for Border Force cutters to be brought back from the Mediterranean to intercept traffickers' dinghies. "So our response is focused both here in the United Kingdom and overseas".

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott accused Mr Javid of exploiting the problem.

The Home Office did not give information on how this would be done. There are fears that people may drown as they try to cross one of the world's busiest shipping routes.

Mr Chishti added: "They have not got a grip on it".

"Over the last three weeks, our French colleagues have disrupted numerous attempts, recovering at least 95 migrants including nine children, and arrested seven people caught attempting to facilitate these crossings".

He said he was considering whether to bring Border Force Cutters on operations in the Mediterranean back to the Channel, although he was yet to make a decision.

"Unfortunately, this means that there are no easy answers".

"There are five Border Force cutters - yet just two of them operate in United Kingdom waters, covering 7,000 miles of coastline", wrote Charlie Elphicke, an MP from the ruling Conservative Party in the Mail on Sunday.

Rejecting Mr Javid's suggestion that increasing patrols would encourage more people to attempt the crossing, Mr Elphicke said: "You don't deter burglars by leaving your front door open".

As the number of migrants attempting the risky crossing continues to grow, there is now mounting concern that it's "only a matter of time before people lose their lives", the Home Office said.

Ms Nokes said the number of patrol boats was being "constantly reviewed", but it was "feasible that were we to put additional craft they might act as a magnet - encouraging people to make a perilous crossing".

Mr Javid will meet with officials from the Border Force, National Crime Agency and officials in Whitehall today, after declaring the ongoing crisis a "major incident".

He has also held a conference call with officials in the Border Force, Immigration Enforcement and the National Crime Agency (NCA) - where he was briefed on the latest intelligence and action being taken.

A spokeswoman for the Immigration Services Union (ISU), which represents Border Force staff, said the two ageing Cutters available for patrols were "woefully inadequate".

People smugglers have told migrants that they should attempt to make the crossing to the United Kingdom before border security is strengthened after Brexit on March 29, 2019.

"We are being told that those touting for these crossings are absolutely open about it", she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Moreover, we can not simply leave it to the French". Several arrests of suspected people smugglers have been made.

"Instead of laying the blame exclusively at the hands of criminal gangs, Sajid Javid must step up and provide safe passage for those in distress if he wants to avoid further human tragedy".

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