THE patience of Dover residents is reaching “breaking point” after a period in which more than 200 migrants have attempted to cross the English Channel in flimsy boats since November.
On Friday morning, 12 people were rescued just a few miles from the shoreline in a tiny dinghy, while six Iranian men where detained on a beach in Kent today (Sunday). Home Secretary Sajid Javid has cut short his holiday in a bid to get to grips with the situation, which he has described as a “major incident”. Dover district councillor Georgette Rapley said: “We can’t take much more.
“The residents are very worried. We are concerned about the influx of immigrants, who are coming by the boatload now.”
Mrs Rapley told The Sunday Telegraph residents could see the boats as they approached the beach, adding: “It’s never been as bad as this.
“Someone is going to drown soon.”
She also said the finger was being pointed at the authorities across the Channel in France, with a growing perception that little if anything was being done to prevent the dangerous crossing attempts.
She explained: “They’re probably glad to see the back of the migrants, but its Dover that’s paying the price.
“The breaking point has got to come somewhere.”
Mr Javid said he and French interior minister Christophe Castaner had agreed to step up action to deal with the problem during a phone conversation today.
An “enhanced action plan” to be launched in the coming week will include increased joint patrols and surveillance, disruption of organised trafficking gangs and efforts to raise awareness among migrants of the dangers of a Channel crossing.
The two men agreed on the need to “ramp up” co-operation and will meet face-to-face in January to assess whether further action is required, the Home Office said.
Mr Javid will chair a meeting on Monday to discuss further action with senior officials from Government departments and agencies, including Border Force and the National Crime Agency.
Mr Castaner offered reassurances over France’s efforts to break up people-smuggling gangs, pointing to the dismantling on December 19 of an entire organised crime group that had been trafficking migrants through the country.
Thanking the French minister for his “partnership”, Mr Javid said: “The UK and France will build on our joint efforts to deter illegal migration – protecting our borders and human life.”
Meanwhile shadow home secretary Diane Abbott branded Mr Javid’s strategy “flawed”.
Writing in the Sunday Mirror, Ms Abbott said: “He has still to explain exactly how the Government plans to handle these mass criminal operations in British waters.
“The Home Office’s flawed strategy has been to focus on deterring refugees, thinking that the issues in the Mediterranean would never reach our shores.
“While the Tories wax lyrical about control of our borders and being tough on security, they cannot seem to get a grip on criminal smugglers operating on a few hundred miles of coastline in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.”