Near-freezing temperatures in the English Channel on Thursday did not stop dozens of people making the dangerous crossing from France.
A young child wrapped up in an orange lifejacket and wearing a beanie hat was among at least 271 people who made the trip aboard 10 small boats.
Border Force and the RNLI were busy in the chilly Dover Strait from 1am as calm conditions prompted a flurry of attempts to reach the UK.
The 271 people known to have arrived in Kent, confirmed by the Home Office on Thursday evening, is more than the entire total for January last year.
So far, more than 450 people have made the life-threatening trip across the Channel in small boats following a record-breaking year in 2021.
Commenting on the day’s arrivals, Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, said: “People making these perilous sea crossings are doing so out of desperation, mainly because there are no safe and legal routes for them to seek asylum in this country, and many have family and other connections here.
“Ministers should stop shirking their responsibility toward refugees.
“For instance, it’s misleading, and indeed verging on cruel, for ministers and officials to talk about France being a ‘safe country’ when many people who are perfectly entitled to seek asylum in Britain are trapped in miserable and dangerous conditions in camps in northern France.
“The UK and the French governments should prioritise humane ways of fulfilling their shared duty to provide asylum.”
Last week it was announced that Border Force officials could take industrial action over Priti Patel’s plans to turn back dinghies in the English Channel.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), whose members include around 80% of the Border Force officials who would be tasked with implementing the “pushbacks”, and the charity Care4Calais have filed an application for judicial review on the pushback policy.
Despite the Home Secretary’s pledge to make crossings an “infrequent phenomenon” by spring 2020, more than 36,000 people have succeeded in reaching the UK in the last two years.
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