Arrests, deportations and record crossings as migrant crisis continues
Arrests following clashes between police and anti-migrant protesters capped an eventful week as the small boats crisis continues.
Ten people were arrested following demonstrations in Dover on Saturday, which brought a dual carriageway to a standstill.
Rival protests took place in the Kent town just days after a record 416 migrants made it to the UK after crossing the English Channel.
At least 5,600 migrants have now made it to British shores by boat in 2020, analysis by the PA news agency shows.
The Home Office, which has come under fire for its attacks on “activist lawyers”, has insisted that it will make the sea route “unviable”.
Following days of bad weather, a flurry of migrant boats managed to cross the busy shipping lanes of the Dover strait to the UK on Wednesday.
On board the more than two dozen boats were at least 416 migrants, a single-day record.
Large numbers were seen being brought into Dover, packed aboard Border Force patrol vessels and sitting on the front of lifeboats.
On Thursday senior Home Office and immigration figures appeared before the Home Affairs Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into migrant crossings.
Chairwoman Yvette Cooper pressed them for answers on whether the Home Office will have any legal authority to return migrants to countries like France after December 31.
However she did not receive a full answer to the question, which she said she was “really surprised” about.
Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, asked the Home Office’s new clandestine Channel threat commander Dan O’Mahoney about suggestions made by a French politician that migrants come to the UK because it is easier to work illegally and “live undercover”.
Mr Loughton said: “It would appear that French members of parliament are party to putting around these misconceptions about how they are actually going to be looked after if they do make it to the UK.
“That’s part of the problem, isn’t it, that people are coming here on a false premise?”
Mr O’Mahoney replied: “I think that’s absolutely correct.”
Later the same day, Home Secretary Priti Patel used Twitter to hail the deportation of 11 Syrian nationals to Spain.
She also continued her attacks on “activist lawyers” which she says are frustrating the removal of migrants.
Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, said that lawyers should not be political targets for simply doing their jobs.
Concerns were raised over the deportation of the 11 Syrians when it emerged that they had been left “confused and distressed” when they ended up alone on the streets of Madrid.
When their UK Government-chartered flight touched down in Spain authorities declined responsibility for them, and they were left alone until an aid group picked them up, the PA news agency learned.
With tensions over the continuing migrant crisis running high there were fears that planned protests in Dover on Saturday would lead to violence.
From 11am, anti-racism activists gathered to stand in solidarity with people making the dangerous Channel crossing.
Addressing a crowd of about 100, Peter Keenan from Kent Refugee Help said that when society sees people who are fleeing war and turns them away “that says something about the state of your society”.
Later, dozens of anti-migrant protesters marched from the seafront to the A20, blocking the dual carriageway for more than an hour.
There were sporadic clashes with police, including one incident where several officers were seen restraining a person and pinning them to the ground.
At least 10 people were arrested, including for racially aggravated public order, violent disorder and assaulting an emergency worker.