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UK, France Grapple with Surge in Migrant Channel Crossings

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought ashore from the local lifeboat at Dungeness in Kent, after being picked-up following a small boat incident in the Channel, England, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought ashore from the local lifeboat at Dungeness in Kent, after being picked-up following a small boat incident in the Channel, England, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)

Britains interior minister was meeting her French counterpart on Wednesday amid a surge in the number of people making risky journeys across the English Channel in small boats.

Britains interior minister was meeting her French counterpart on Wednesday amid a surge in the number of people making risky journeys across the English Channel in small boats.

Thousands of migrants have landed on beaches in southeast England in recent days of calm, summery weather, with 785 arriving on Monday alone, according to Britains Home Office. More than 12,000 have made the crossing this year, according to a count by Britains Press Association news agency. In 2020, about 8,500 people made the journey, and several died in the attempt.

Migrants have long used northern France as a launching point to reach Britain, either by stowing away in trucks or on ferries, or increasingly since the coronavirus pandemic disrupted international travel in dinghies and other small boats organized by people smugglers.

The British and French governments have worked for years to stop the journeys, without much success. Earlier this year, Britain agreed to give France 54 million pounds ($74 million, 63 million euros) to help fund a doubling of the number of police patrolling French beaches.

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The money has not yet been paid, and U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel has suggested she could withhold it if France does not do more to stop the boats departing. She is due to meet French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin during a two-day G-7 interior ministers meeting in London that begins Wednesday.

French lawmaker Pierre-Henri Dumont, who represents the Calais region of northern France in the National Assembly, said authorities there were doing all they could.

The fact is, weve got 300 to 400 kilometers of shore to monitor every day and every night and its quite impossible to have police officers every 100 meters because of the length of the shore, he told the BBC.

We cannot stop all the crossings, he added. We need to address the causes of migration.

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first published:September 09, 2021, 18:34 IST