Published: 10:56, 12 June 2020
| Updated: 11:53, 12 June 2020
A Kent MP claims toddlers are being 'dangled overboard' by criminal gangs who are attempting to traffic people into the UK.
The ploy is used by the traffickers as they attempt to smuggle people across the English Channel in small boats in a bid to prevent interceptions, it has been claimed.
Dover and Deal MP Natalie Elphicke also says pregnant women are being forced on boats at gunpoint.
Mrs Elphicke raised the examples in the House of Commons after holding talks with Home Secretary Priti Patel in Dover last Friday, when the Home Secretary made a special visit to Border Force to look into this issue.
Mrs Elphicke said it reaffirmed the need to put a stop to the crossings by returning migrants and cracking down on the criminal gangs behind them.
She told the Commons: “Newborn babies put at risk of hypothermia.
"Toddlers stripped of their life jackets and dangled over the side to prevent interceptions. Pregnant women forced to board at gun point.
"Does the Home Secretary agree with me that it’s humanitarian as well as the right thing to do to tackle and put a stop to these ruthless criminal gangs, and return boats to France and to give her the legal powers she needs to put a stop to the crossings once and for all?”
Mrs Elphicke has also been leading calls for all migrants that arrive in the UK to be quarantined amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "My Honourable Friend is absolutely right. And she will know from our discussions we’ve had even as recently as Friday the extent to which the level of criminals and the exposure and the abuse that’s undertaken by the people traffickers who are forcing mothers and children onto unseaworthy vessels.
"My Honourable Friend the Immigration Minister earlier on outlined the approach that this Government is taking to tackle the abuses, go after the criminals and the facilitators of this crime and we will not stop pursuing until we absolutely break the pathway these criminal gangs are using."
But a spokesman for the Kent Refugee Action Network said it was time for a new approach.
They said: "If the government was serious about stopping traffickers they would work to offer safe and legal routes for those wishing to come to the UK.
"That would put the traffickers out of business overnight. This issue is not going to go away and it is time for a fresh approach."
Last month, Kent County Council received the highest number of asylum-seeking children for five years - with 65 new arrivals.
More by this authorSam Williams
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