Channel migrants are being bussed 500 miles to Scotland for processing after arriving on beaches in Kent as the system struggles under a record number of crossings.
Dozens have taken the eight-hour journey to Dungavel immigration detention centre in Strathaven, South Lanarkshire in the last few weeks, according to a pressure group.
Until now, migrants have been processed in Home Office short-term holding facilities an hour or two from Dover, but a record 4,000 arrivals this month have forced officials to use facilities further away.
Until now, migrants have been processed in Home Office short-term holding facilities an hour or two from Dover, but a record 4,000 arrivals this month have forced officials to use facilities further away. Pictured: Home Secretary Priti Patel
Dozens have taken the eight-hour journey to Dungavel immigration detention centre in Strathaven, South Lanarkshire (pictured) in the last few weeks, according to a pressure group
Kate Alexander, director of Scottish Detainee Visitors, told The Guardian: ‘When I visited Dungavel on 14 October, I learnt that around 50 people who had crossed the Channel in small boats had been brought there for ”processing”.
‘Staff said this was the second time it had happened in a month, but not before that.’
What happens to migrants after they arrive in the UK?
Migrants who have been picked up after landing or intercepted at sea are taken to a Border Force processing centre, usually near Dover
Here arrivals are triaged to identify any medical needs or vulnerabilities, fed and checked to see if they have a criminal record. Adults have an initial interview before being sent to accommodation centre across Britain, paid for by UK taxpayers and provided by private contractors.
The migrants are given £37.75 per week for essentials like food, clothes and toiletries while they wait for a decision on their asylum application. Kent County Council normally takes unaccompanied children into its care, although other local authorities are also involved in this programme.
Other migrants might be kept in a detention centre ahead of a plan to send them back to Europe. However, just five were deported last year as ministers admitted to ‘difficulties’.
While a member of the EU, Britain was part of the Dublin Regulation, an EU-wide deal that required migrants to apply for asylum in the first member state they arrive in and could be deported back to that country if they moved on to another.
However, since Brexit there has been no formal arrangements to allow migrants to be deported to France or another EU member country.
The Home Office said: ‘The British public have had enough of seeing people die in the Channel while ruthless criminal gangs profit from their misery and our new plan for immigration will fix the broken system which encourages migrants to make this lethal journey.
‘People should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach – rather than making dangerous journeys to the UK.
‘That is why we will have rules in place to make asylum claims inadmissible where people have travelled through or have a connection to safe countries.’
It came as a minister warned French officials were not enforcing their land border ‘well enough’ to prevent people crossing the Channel.
French officials are not enforcing their land border ‘well enough’ to prevent migrants from crossing the Channel, a minister has argued.
It comes after more than 24,700 people have arrived in the UK so far this year after making the Channel crossing in small boats – almost three times the number there were in 2020.
Business minister Paul Scully, defending Home Secretary Priti Patel’s performance in the face of the number of arrivals, told Sky News: ‘(It is) because we’ve made an agreement with France which, unfortunately, is not being affected well enough at the moment, and that’s what we need to go back and do.’
Mr Scully continued: ‘One of the things we’ve got to do is stop the pull factors, we’ve got to stop the reason why people are travelling through safe countries, through France, to come to the UK.
‘Actually, we’ve got to make sure they are treated well in France, that in the first place, that they are claiming asylum – that’s what the rules are, that’s what the laws are.’
He added: ‘While they (migrants) can see there is a pathway across the Channel because the border isn’t being enforced well enough on the land side, on the French side, and while we’re not allowed to treat illegal immigrants differently from legal immigrants, then those pull factors remain – that’s what we’re tackling and trying to tackle at full speed.’
A newborn baby clutching its mother’s chest was among 200 migrants who sailed ashore along the Kent coastline yesterday.
Video footage showed the aftermath of three boats landing on the shoreline near Dungeness, with around 65 exhausted people crammed onto each one.
The new arrivals bring the total number to have made it to the UK this month to 4,019, exceeding the previous record of 3,879 in September. This year’s total is now a record-breaking 23,761
Migrants huddle together on the beach at Dungeness yesterday after three crammed boats arrived on the shoreline
Witnesses described coaches filled mostly with men being led away from the shingle beach by Border Force officials.
Paul Fenney, 40, from Folkestone, Kent, was enjoying a family walk when he saw the latest landings.
Migrants could be ‘housed in Army barracks rather than hotels’ under new proposal
A task force will reportedly consider strategies including housing asylum seekers in Army barracks rather than hotels as the Government faces criticism over the migrant crisis.
Boris Johnson has drafted in Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay to oversee the issue of the rising number of migrants arriving on Britain’s shores, The Sunday Times reported
The initiative will consider the accommodation idea, the possibility of cutting benefits, if return agreements can be strengthened as well as ‘offshoring’ to third countries while claims are processed, the paper said.
Labour have accused Home Secretary Priti Patel of ‘comprehensively failing’ to stem the flow.
Mr Fenney said: ‘I saw three ambulances, three coaches and about 40 police and RNLI boats.
‘There was one coach already full and on the back it said it was an 87-seater and the coach in front had about ten people on it, and when we walked to the sea there were about 90 there.
‘There were three boats and they were obviously overloaded. There was a newborn baby that was rushed away with female paramedics and its mother.
‘We saw ten little lads, they looked like they were on their own. They were walking in a group with Border Force people.
‘The majority were men – I only saw that one lady with the very small baby clutched to her chest.’
More than 24,700 migrants have arrived in the UK so far this year.
The news comes amid reports that some asylum seekers are getting tattoos of Jesus and cruxifixes as evidence they have converted to Christianity and cannot be returned to the Middle East on religious grounds.
Immigration appeal judgments over the last five years show that over 20 asylum claimants have tattoos connected to Christianity, atheism and homosexuality, the Sunday Telegraph reports.
In each of these cases, the tattoos were used to argue the risk individuals face if returned to their Muslim home countries, many of which deem leaving the Islamic faith and being gay as criminal offences.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing increasing pressure from his own party to adopt a tougher stance on migrants crossing the channel, as a poll showed 77 per cent of Tory voters felt the Government’s approach was ‘too soft’.
Senior party figures warned Mr Johnson that a shift to the political centre would ‘open up a gap’ on the PM’s right flank, leaving space for another party which could cost the Tories a majority at a future election.
Just one of the three boats – each estimated to have been crammed with about 65 people – which landed in Kent yesterday.