A daily record of around 1,000 migrants crossed the Channel on Monday, as Boris Johnson demanded the French “stiffen their sinews” to prevent more reaching the UK.
More than 200 of the migrants landed on UK beaches without being intercepted, as the smuggling gangs took advantage of the heatwave and becalmed sea to launch a flotilla of dinghies and small rigid-hulled boats crammed with men, women and children.
The estimated 1,000 people is expected to beat the previous daily record of 828 on August 21 and means more than 13,500 have reached the UK from France so far this year, compared with 8,417 for the whole of 2020.
The French stopped just 200 migrants from crossing in boats on Monday, prompting a furious reaction from a UK Government source who said: “They have to get a grip.”
Asked about the surge in the Commons, Boris Johnson said: “A large number of people want to come to this country, and we are doing everything we can to encourage the French to do the necessary and impede their passage.
“But I know the Home Secretary is working right around the clock to ensure that we not only encourage the French to stiffen their sinews and stop people making the journey, but we use every possible tactic available to us as well.”
The surge will pile further pressure on Priti Patel as more than 5,000 migrants have now arrived in the UK since she gave France £54 million just seven weeks ago to double police patrols and boost surveillance to prevent the crossings.
Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover, called for emergency laws to give Border Force powers to turn back the boats. “This is simply outrageous. People who are perfectly safe in France brazenly break into Britain day after day,” she said.
“First it was a few, then hundreds, and now 1,000 in a day, the French just waving them through with a cheery Bon Voyage. If the French won’t stop the small boats then we need to by turning them back, making returns, and taking firm control of our borders. I fully support emergency legislation to do that.”
Tony Smith, former director general of the Border Force, said the crossings would only be deterred if France agreed to accept migrants turned back at sea or on land. “It’s clear the smugglers are getting the upper hand and there seems to be an unending supply of migrants in the EU who continue to cross regardless of their status in France,” he said.
“We haven’t solved this. Whatever the French Government are doing in France and whatever we are doing with the French, we haven’t been able to stop the boats.”
The first migrants arrived in a packed lifeboat that landed on a beach in Dungeness in Kent after picking them up from a dinghy at sea.
It was followed in the early afternoon by a further two dinghies, each with 30 migrants, that landed together on the same beach, followed by a third with another 30 on the nearby Greatstone beach.
Just an hour later a rigid inflatable boat carrying about 30 migrants landed on Dover’s Shakespeare Beach, shadowed by another RIB belonging to the Border Force and, in the distance, an RNLI cutter.
Splashing out of the sea, they sank to their knees with smiles of profound relief etched on their exhausted faces. Ready to greet the newcomers was a party of three Border Force staff, themselves showing signs of fatigue having intercepted several other beach landings already that day.
One onlooker said: “It looks like the authorities have been overwhelmed today.”