UK flies air force plane over Channel amid migrant crossings

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A Border Force vessel brings a group of people thought to be migrants into the port city of Dover, southern England, Sunday Aug. 9, 2020. Many migrants have used small craft during the recent hot calm weather to make the dangerous journey from northern France, to cross the busy shipping lanes of The Channel to reach Britain. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire( /PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — A Royal Air Force surveillance plane was flying over the English Channel on Monday as the British government sought to curb the number of people crossing from France in small boats.

The Ministry of Defense said the Atlas aircraft was deployed “to support Border Force operations in the Channel.”

Britain’s Conservative government has talked tough amid a surge in the number of migrants crossing the Channel during recent warm summer weather. On Thursday, 235 people were brought ashore, a record number for a single day. More than 650 have arrived so far in August, including babies and unaccompanied children.

An inflatable dinghy carrying about 20 people was met by a U.K. Border Force boat on Monday and escorted to the port of Dover.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has said the Royal Navy could be called in to prevent boats reaching U.K. waters, though other senior officials and politicians say that would be impractical and potentially dangerous because small boats could capsize if they are forced back to the French shore.

Human rights groups have criticized the British government’s harsh rhetoric and said asylum-seekers should be given safe routes to reach the U.K.

Migrants have long used northern France as a launching point to get to Britain, either in trucks through the Channel tunnel or on ferries.

Some have turned to small boats organized by people smugglers because coronavirus lockdowns have reduced opportunities to stow away on ferries and trucks. Fine summer weather is also prompting more people to make the risky journey across one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes — about 20 miles (32 kilometers) at its narrowest point — in vessels as small as dinghies and kayaks.

The British and French immigration ministers are due to hold talks on Tuesday about the Channel crossings.

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