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Tiny girl among first asylum seeker to cross Channel in 2022 after record year

A tiny girl wearing a pink onesie being carried ashore in the arms of a man is among the first people to have crossed the English Channel in 2022.

The pair arrived in the busy Kent port aboard an RNLI lifeboat on a chilly Tuesday morning along with others fresh from the dangerous sea journey.

A tiny girl was among a group of asylum seekers brought in Picture: UKNIP
A tiny girl was among a group of asylum seekers brought in Picture: UKNIP

They were seen being escorted up the gangway by immigration officials before being taken off to be processed.

The latest arrivals – believed to be the first this year – come after more than 28,300 people crossed the Dover Strait aboard small boats in 2021, triple the number for 2020.

Last year’s record number – an increase of about 20,000 on 2020 – came despite millions of pounds promised to French authorities to tackle the issue.

A Home Office minister said the Government is “reforming” its approach to asylum through its New Plan for Immigration.

Also seen arriving in Dover on Tuesday morning were a man and woman leading a child wrapped in a blanket – perhaps a family-of-three.

Asylum seekers at the Tug Haven. Picture: UKNIP
Asylum seekers at the Tug Haven. Picture: UKNIP

A number of Border Force and French boats have been active in the Channel on Tuesday amid renewed attempts to cross the dangerous waters.

The Home Office confirmed to Kent Online that on that day UK authorities had to rescue or intercept 66 people from two events.

Also on Tuesday French authorities stopped at least 38 people in one incident from reaching the UK.

The last 12 months have seen smugglers packing more and more people aboard larger and larger dinghies, sometimes with deadly consequences.

But arrivals will continue and more people will drown in the narrow sea between France and Britain if the Government pursues its “dangerous and callous policy”, ministers have been warned.

The Tug Haven at Dover Western Docks where rescued asylum seekers are first brought. Library picture: Sam Lennon KMG
The Tug Haven at Dover Western Docks where rescued asylum seekers are first brought. Library picture: Sam Lennon KMG

Overall, at least 28,395 people reached the UK aboard small boats in 2021, according to analysis by the PA news agency.

Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive at Refugee Action, said that the UK Government’s policy will lead to more deaths in the Dover Strait.

He said: “People will continue to cross the Channel in flimsy boats, and smugglers will continue to profit, unless ministers open up more routes for refugees to claim asylum here.

“(In November) we saw the deadly result of their strategy of keeping people out rather than keeping people safe, when at least 27 people died near our coast.

“And yet the Government wants to legalise this dangerous and callous policy in its Anti-Refugee Bill, which will only lead to more people drowning. It must wake up and scrap this Bill now.”

Home Office minister Tom Pursglove said: “Seeking asylum for protection should not involve people asylum shopping country to country, or risking their lives by lining the pockets of criminal gangs to cross the Channel.”

He said the Government is “reforming” its approach by “making the tough decisions to end the overt exploitation of our laws and UK taxpayers.”

Mr Pursglove added: "The public have rightly had enough of the blatant disregard of our immigration laws and we are bringing in necessary long-term changes."

The Government says the Nationality and Borders Bill, passed in the House of Commons on December 8, is to:

Introduce a maximum life sentence for those who facilitate illegal entry.

For the first time, differentiate between those who do and do not come directly, claim without delay and if present unlawfully, can show good cause for that unlawful entry or presence.

End the cycle of limitless appeals by creating a new and expanded one stop process to ensure all claims are made and considered up front.

Make it a criminal offence to arrive in the UK illegally, and increase the maximum sentence for illegally entering the UK.

Strengthen the powers of Border Force to stop and redirect vessels.

Introduce new powers to remove asylum seekers to have their claims processed outside the UK.

Speed up the removal of those with no right to be in the UK by streamlining the appeals and judicial process.

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