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UK’s handling of migrants arriving by boat is unacceptable – official report

UK’s handling of migrants arriving by boat is unacceptable – official report
Migrants arrive on a boat after crossing the English Channel from France to Dover, Britain, 29 June 2022. EPA-EFE/STUART BROCK

LONDON, July 21 (Reuters) - Britain's handling of migrants who arrive by small boats from Northern France has been unacceptable, ineffective and inefficient, an independent inspection published on Thursday said.

The number of people attempting dangerous sea crossings to enter Britain has risen sharply, forcing the government to address criticism from some quarters that border controls are too weak, while others say that those seeking asylum are being treated inhumanely.

The inspection, led by Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration David Neal, focused on the initial processing of migrants at two government centres between December 2021 and January 2022.

“These migrants crossed the Channel in dire circumstances. Many were vulnerable and at risk, including children and women on their own, and when they arrived in Dover the way they were dealt with was unacceptable,” Neal said.

“This is because the Home Office has failed over the past three years to move from a crisis response to having better systems and procedures in place and treating this as business as usual.”

Accepting the report’s recommendations, the home office said that changes made to the two centres since the inspection has shown a fundamental change in approach.

In November 2021, 27 people died while attempting to cross the Channel in an inflatable dinghy – the worst recorded accident of its kind in the Channel – triggering a blame game between Britain and France.

London has announced a new immigration policy to send migrants to Rwanda for processing, but that has run into legal challenges.

The government response to the stress caused by a surge in migrant arrivals at Dover on England’s southern coast had exposed gaps in security procedures and left vulnerable migrants at risk, the report said.

The number of people arriving by small boats, many of whom were from Iran and Iraq, rose to 28,526 last year, compared to 8,486 in 2020 and just 286 in 2018.

Neal also criticised record keeping as “inexcusably awful”.

“Put simply, if we don’t have a record of people coming into the country, then we do not know who is threatened or who is threatening,” he said.

(Reporting by Muvija M; editing by William James and Toby Chopra)

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