ANOTHER boat is picked up – taking total number to record-breaking 601 in a month
- Tony Smith CBE told committee today he cannot see an ‘immediate end’ to crisis
- He also said the Government needs to have a ‘very serious look’ at its capabilities
- Another boat carrying 13 migrants was picked up off the Kent coast this morning
- A record 601 migrants have made it to UK shores this month, with 57 yesterday
Katie Weston and William Cole — Mail Online May 22, 2020
Two small boats carrying 25 migrants are pictured being handed over by the French authorities to UK Border Force in the English Channel on Wednesday. Click to enlarge
The ex-Border Force chief has today said migrants crossing the English Channel are a ‘major threat’ to UK borders as another boat is picked up today, taking the total number to a record-breaking 601 so far this month.
Tony Smith CBE, a former head of the Border Force, told the Commons home affairs committee that he cannot see an immediate end to the crisis.
He also commented on widely shared footage that some have claimed shows a French Navy ship escorting a migrant dinghy into British waters this week.
It comes as Border Force patrols picked up another boat carrying 13 migrants today, taking the total who have reached British shores to 601 so far this month, with 57 migrants arriving on five boats yesterday and 64 on Wednesday.
The small boat was picked up off the Kent coast at around 2.14am, with the Coastguard fixed-wing aircraft scrambled along with the Dungeness lifeboat and Border Force vessel Hunter.
French authorities also stopped another boat from travelling across the Channel.
At least 1,121 migrants have now crossed to the UK on small boats since the coronavirus lockdown was announced, according to data.
Mr Smith said: ‘This was declared a critical incident by the Home Secretary last year.
‘In my experience critical incidents are declared in order to put out the fire if you like with a task force and that when the fire’s put out we return to business as normal.
‘It’s too enduring to be just a critical incident. I think this is becoming a major threat, I’m afraid, to the UK border.’
He said the crossings entail a ‘huge risk to life and limb, which should be our top priority in any case’.
The committee heard that migrants are told by smugglers that if they get picked up by Border Force then they will get into the UK.
Mr Smith said the Government needs to have a ‘very serious look’ at its capabilities.
He said: ‘We haven’t really geared ourselves up to a major maritime threat like this either in terms of our infrastructure, our powers, our response capability or our international response capability with France.
‘This is all driven by money and smugglers. You need to send a very, very clear message that that’s not going to work.’