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Boats used by asylum seekers to cross Channel stored in Dover to be donated to charity


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Inflatable craft used by people seeking asylum to make the dangerous trip across the Channel are being donated to charity.

The dinghies will be sent to local groups such as the RNLI and Sea Scouts.

A boat used by people to cross the Channel found on a slipway in Kingsdown
A boat used by people to cross the Channel found on a slipway in Kingsdown

In 2020 more than 6,500 people travelled across one of the world's busiest shipping lanes to seek asylum in the UK.

This has amounted to hundreds of boats, creating a massive backlog of the craft which are sitting unused at the Port of Dover.

It is believed that many of the craft have already been moved to other parts of the county, but there were dozens spotted in drone pictures last month.

There are also reportedly piles of outboard motors used to propel the boats across to Kent's shores, many of them which look brand new.

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke welcomed the news of the boats being donated to charities, but also warned that the focus must remain on bringing the crossings to an end "once and for all."

A group of people, including a child, are brought into Dover after attempting to cross the Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA)
A group of people, including a child, are brought into Dover after attempting to cross the Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA)

She said: "Residents came to me with this sensible idea to put dinghies to good use after the Home Office have finished examining them - so I welcome ministers listening and taking it forward.

"Yet I have also been clear that the real focus should be on making sure the dangerous crossings themselves end once and for all."

Last week, up to 40 people crossed the Channel and landed on Kent's shores, thought to be a result of the calm weather conditions.

After a group of 30 were seen arriving in one boat on St Margaret's Bay, a Border Force RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat) was seen towing four dinghies into the harbour.

Crossings are frequently monitored by the Coastguard, and the RNLI, Border Force and French patrol forces have taken part in rescues in the past few months.

People coming ashore at Kingsdown. Picture: Christian Thrale
People coming ashore at Kingsdown. Picture: Christian Thrale

Three men were charged last Thursday after an abandoned RHIB used by people crossing the channel was taken from a beach in the district.

A number of thefts in the Deal and Dover area have prompted the Coastgaurd and police to warn people against removing the vessels.

A poster, placed by the coastguard on an inflatable found at Kingsdown yesterday said: "This vessel is part of ongoing search and rescue operations along with criminal investigations.

"It is not lost of abandoned and as such no claim of ownership can be made on this craft or its contents.

"The unauthorised removal of this vessel or its contents is considered theft."

The Coastguard poster warns against removing the vessel which is still part of a criminal investigation
The Coastguard poster warns against removing the vessel which is still part of a criminal investigation

It is thought that deteriorating conditions for people seeking asylum in Calais has prompted the increase in crossings this year, a situation made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the crossing numbers are comparatively higher than previous years, the number of people seeking asylum in the UK is still thought to be drastically lower than that of other countries in Europe.

In 2019, the UN reported that France received 123,900 applications for asylum, and Germany 142,500.

Britain had just 35,566 in the same year.

Read more: All the latest news from Dover

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