Migrants crossing the channel ‘forced to travel to the UK’

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Some of the migrants crossing the English Channel are being forced to travel to the UK by criminals when they have no desire to go there, the commander tasked with responding to the small boats has said.

Dan O’Mahoney, the recently-appointed clandestine channel threat commander, told MPs on Wednesday that the vulnerable migrants are compelled to go on the boats so the facilitators can get paid.

The former Royal Marine was responding to Conservative MP Tim Loughton, who said there was an inaccurate perception that the UK is an easier place to work illegally and live “undercover”.

The comments come a day after the highest number of migrant crossings was recorded this year.

Home secretary Priti Patel has pledged to make the channel route unviable. (PA)

O’Mahoney told the Home Affairs Committee he agreed with Loughton’s view that “people are coming here on a false premise”.

“It’s exactly the phenomenon which you’ve described, where these ruthless criminals are taking advantage of the vulnerability of these migrants, some of whom don’t even want to come to the UK,” O’Mahoney said.

Read more: Nearly 1,500 migrants made journey to UK in small boats during August

“We hear through debriefing a lot of stories about migrants who are literally forced on to boats, have no idea where they are when they get to the UK, because the facilitators don’t get paid until they’ve done that last leg of the journey.

“So there is a huge misinformation campaign going on with the facilitators who tell them that the streets are paved with gold in the UK.

“As anybody knows who’s travelled to France it’s a perfectly civilised country, it has a fully functioning asylum system and what we find is when we deliver the migrants to the reception centres they do in fact claim asylum in France.”

Home secretary Priti Patel has previously vowed to make crossings “completely unviable”.

Wednesday saw the highest number of migrants reach the UK on small boats, with at least 409 people making the journey under calm and sunny weather on the channel.

The Home Office said it had dealt with at least 27 “incidents”.

The previous highest number of migrants who crossed to the UK was at least 235 people on 6 August.

O’Mahoney also said factors driving the increase in people travelling across on small boats included global migration trends caused by events thousands of miles away, the coronavirus pandemic and “unprecedented weather patterns” over July and August.

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