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Home Secretary Priti Patel visits Dover as Border Force faces pressure to deal with increased migrant crossings


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Kent's Border Force officers are enduring scorching temperatures as they battle to process around 200 migrants a day while government continues to struggle to stop the crossings.

Priti Patel visited Dover today and was seen getting off a police boat after a short trip out to sea. She was seen walking up the gangway to the Border Force hub – the same gangway that hundreds of migrants are taken up every week.

Border Force are working continuously rescuing asylum seekers from the Channel

The people dealing with these new arrivals are under increased pressure, as this present crisis intensifies, they are working longer hours to get new arrivals registered with the authorities.

That's according to Lucy Moreton, professional officer for ISU, the union for borders, immigration and customs workers.

She told KentOnline that staff are struggling to process the sheer scale of cases and the significant and unprecedented pressure on the force shows no signs of letting up.

Before last week's record day of cases, Dover based officers would see an average of 100 arrivals a day. Now they are seeing 200.

She said: "As a force, we have peaks and troughs, things happen and you get different changes in the patterns of traffic. The issues that have come up most recently is that folk can't be searched out at sea because they are being picked up by other agencies including the RNLI and the Coastguard.

The women and children were at the front of the RHIB
The women and children were at the front of the RHIB

"It means the immediate intercepting team have to wear body armour on a quay with no shelter - and in the temperatures we've had recently - it has been horrendous.

"They are already working long hours, with no cold water but now they're wearing 10 kilos of body armour."

Our reporter observed on Friday how search and rescue vessels operated a continuous cycle, bringing migrants ashore, discharging them and going straight out on patrol as another vessel came in to follow the same protocol. There were no visible breaks for the boat staff and the Mercury continued to soar to over 30 degrees.

The officers, based on the quay at Dover Marina, are under the same pressure and bring the migrants to shore where they enter a quayside welfare unit.

This is where their needs are assessed.

Border Force boats can be seen from Western Heights on the right of the Marina
Border Force boats can be seen from Western Heights on the right of the Marina

They are given water, food and, if needed, they can shower and put on fresh jumpsuits or tracksuits to wear.

Once they have been initially processed they are loaded into coaches from the Marina to an intake unit for fingerprinting.

According to Ms Moreton, staff are arduously working long hours on this early identifying process to get the new arrivals ready to be taken on by the relevant authorities.

Kent currently takes responsibility for migrants with children and unaccompanied children. Any others that come ashore - like single males, who make up the majority, are shipped off to authorities like Birmingham, Manchester, London, Cardiff.

There, like with many homeless people in their care, they are housed in hotels until accommodation becomes available.

Coaches containing migrants brought ashore, are taken to an intake unit further inside Dove Docks for finger printing
Coaches containing migrants brought ashore, are taken to an intake unit further inside Dove Docks for finger printing

Covid-19 screening is adding to the burden when somebody presents with virus symptoms.

She said there are difficulties in fingerprinting with gloves on, and the masks exacerbate the heat.

Arrivals can not be forced to wear masks.

Her insight comes as Home Secretary Priti Patel faced pressure to tackle the crisis - and today she returned to Dover.

Home Secretary Priti Patel. Picture: Home Office (40145057)
Home Secretary Priti Patel. Picture: Home Office (40145057)

Meanwhile Prime Minister Boris Johnson said we need to look at the legal framework for migrants crossing the English Channel and being allowed to stay here despite entering illegally.

It comes as 20 men, identifying as Syrian, were intercepted in the channel by border force speed boat Hunter this morning.

Despite a formal request to the Ministry of Defence for military assistance to deter foreign nationals from undertaking journeys to Dover in small boats, Ms Moreton says: "I can't see a let up in the foreseeable future.

"We were able to get some things like water and shelter on Friday but this slipped over the weekend.

"These numbers are going to continue."

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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