Migrants cross English Channel for fourth consecutive day as Home Secretary Priti Patel meets with Border Force in Dover

Migrants have been seen crossing the Channel to the UK for the fourth day in a row, as warm weather and calm seas provided comparatively safe conditions to make the journey.

Sky News correspondents have witnessed migrant boats travelling across the waters as Home Secretary Priti Patel met with Border Force officials in Dover.

Mark Austin was reporting from the Sky helicopter as it flew over the Kent coast when he spotted one of the boats being intercepted.

He said: "There were dozens of people on it and they were picked up by the Border Force vessel Vigilant. Vigilant then headed back to Dover.

"This is a scene that plays out if not on a daily basis then certainly on a weekly basis."

Sky correspondent Ashna Hurynag, who has been reporting from Dover, said: "It has been a very busy today for Border Force officials.

"They know that when the hot weather comes the numbers increase and today has been no different, those waters have been tantalising, and tempting many people to risk their lives in the desperate hope they will reach the other side.

"We’ve already seen one small dinghy that was met by Border Force and the coastguard this morning. Five or six people on board, we spoke to them, they were from Syria and Sudan."

The number of migrant crossings is expected to decrease in the coming weeks as winter approaches.

Ms Patel has met with law enforcement teams tackling illegal migration a week after she said she wanted UK Border Force to be able to turn away migrant boats and send them back to France.

According to reports, border officials have already started training staff in "pushback tactics".

Hurynag continued: "The fact we’ve had a visit from the home secretary here in Dover tells us all we need to know really.

"This is very much at the top of her agenda, we know she is very keen to make this Channel route so-called unviable, and we know she is definitely keen to tackle this form of illegal migration."

The number of migrants making the crossing to the UK has increased dramatically in recent years – with some 300 making the journey in 2018 and around 1,800 in 2019.

In 2020, the figure jumped to 8,500, and at least 14,400 people have crossed to the UK on board small boats this year.

A daily record number of migrants attempted to cross the English Channel on Monday 6 September, according to witnesses.

It was thought at least 1,000 men, women and children were spotted making the journey from France to the UK.

The migrants are usually male and aged between 18 and 34. They travel from countries such as Yemen, Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq, and say they are claiming asylum from civil war and persecution.

Peter Walsh, researcher at the Migrant Observatory, told Sky News: "When we put it in an international perspective other countries have it much worse.

"Countries like Italy, Greece and Spain. At the height of the migrant crisis five years ago, Greece and Italy each 200,000 unauthorised arrivals by boat. These days it is not as bad, but still many tens of thousands more per year than the UK."

Ms Patel has used the Nationality and Borders Bill to say she wants to "streamline" the refugee or asylum seeking process.

Part of that would be increasing the prison sentences for those who come across from six months to four years. People smugglers, who charge migrants thousands of pounds for a seat on a boat, could face life imprisonment.

Sky’s Europe correspondent Michelle Clifford has been reporting from France and said the country’s main strategy is to stop people smugglers and boats from getting into the water.

She said: "We’ve been out on the beaches the last couple of days, out overnight and in the early hours of the morning, where most of the launches take place.

"We didn’t see any boats attempting the crossing, what we did see was a constant police presence and in what are normally the busiest areas for migrants and asylum seekers.

"We’re seeing police out in those areas, police out on the beaches, police out at sea, police helicopters in the air.

"A lot of that work is paid for through UK government funding, and the home secretary has warned some of that funding could be withheld if the French don’t do more to stop the crossings."

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