Migrants seen on ‘dangerously packed’ dinghy heading for Britain
Around 20 migrants waved as they were spotted motoring across the English Channel on a rubber dinghy.
They were packed together on board the blue and grey boat, which was being powered across the Dover Strait by a single outboard engine.
But choppy waters on Monday morning pushed the vessel this way and that, and sea spray showered them at every turn.
One migrant was seen constantly bailing out water from the floor of the dinghy using a plastic container as they continued their desperate journey to Britain.
The scene was witnessed and documented by journalists from the PA news agency.
Migrant charity worker Bridget Chapman, of the Kent Refugee Action Network, said she was “terrified” by video of the crossing and said the boat was “dangerously packed” and “totally unsuitable”.
She said she was “relieved” to hear that the migrants had been picked up by Border Force, and added: “You must be absolutely desperate to put your life on the line like that.”
Spotted about halfway across the Channel at around 6.20am, the group of migrants would have set off from northern France in the early hours of the morning.
When asked if they were all right, they shouted back that they were OK, and said they were from Syria.
The dinghy was visibly low in the water as they sat huddled together wearing orange lifejackets.
The famous White Cliffs of Dover, and their intended destination of the UK, could be seen on the horizon.
Despite the very real dangers of trying to cross the Channel’s busy shipping lanes in small vessels, thousands have made it to the UK by this perilous route in 2020.
In the last few days alone, at least 597 people successfully managed to reach Britain by boat, and the political discussion around the issue has intensified.
Also visible on Monday morning was an RAF Atlas cargo plane flying above the Channel, a sign of the Ministry of Defence’s “initial offer of assistance” to the Home Office.
After a while, the migrants were approached by Border Force’s patrol boat, Hunter, and were expected to be brought ashore later in the morning.
Back in Dover Harbour, Home Secretary Priti Patel was seen disembarking from a police boat after a short trip out to sea.
The Home Office chief was seen walking up the gangway to the Border Force hub – the same gangway that hundreds of migrants are taken up every week.
Ms Chapman watched the PA footage of the dinghy crossing and said: “I don’t know how anyone can watch that video and feel anything but compassion for the people on board.
“It’s difficult to tell the ages of the people in the dinghy but they look like many of the young people I work with.
“Many of them have told me about their journeys across the water and said that they were terrified, that they thought they were going to die.
“They are here now, safe, and working hard to rebuild their lives, live in peace, and contribute to a country that has taken them in.
“If the political will was there, we could create safe and legal channels so that no-one had to risk their lives in this way.”
Minnie Rahman, from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: “Those forced to make dangerous journeys across the channel are doing so because they simply have no other options.
“No-one would risk their life on a crowded dinghy unless their future depended on it.
“If the Government were serious about tackling trafficking, and resolving this situation once and for all, it would open up safe and legal routes of entry to the UK.
“There are many ways to do so, for example, establishing a claims centre in France and introducing humanitarian visas for people seeking asylum.
“The Government’s proposals will only serve to put people’s lives at ever graver risk and they make a mockery of protections for refugees.”