150 migrants intercepted in the Channel as Patel sets up “agile” new command centre

The resurgence in attempts to cross the Channel aboard flimsy crafts continues. Last night, the Home Office confirmed another 150 migrants had tried to reach Britain in freezing conditions.

UK Border Force intercepted four boats carrying 57 people, while French authorities encountered four boats with 38 people aboard, 12 had to be rescued.

The incidents follow Saturday’s haul of six boats caught by Border Force patrols. One vessel alone carried 30 people, including women and children, which had to be towed from 23 miles off Beachy Head to Eastbourne after getting into difficulty.

Migrant efforts to launch from France to reach the UK used to be a summer business, but this Autumn saw people smugglers carrying on their exploitative trade as temperatures dropped. It only took until January 2nd for crossings to start up again, prompting home secretary Priti Patel to set up a high-tech command centre to take down the smugglers.

The new hub will co-ordinate surveillance and engagement using light vessels and drones in coordination with French authorities. It is being headed up by the government’s small boats commander, Dan O’Mahoney, an Iraq veteran appointed last year to liaise with French counterparts.

“By setting up the new command cell we are making the UK’s and French law enforcement response more agile than it has ever been,” O’Mahoney told the Mail.

“It will ensure we have the right capability in the right place at the right time to stop boats from leaving French beaches and to deal with people who do make it into the water, protecting lives and bringing the criminals responsible to justice.”

It was revealed this weekend that 8,417 migrants tried to cross the Channel in 2020. In response, Patel has not only decided to set up the command centre running out of Dover, but a wider operation, codename: Altair. She will have also heeded warnings from the EU’s border agency, Frontex, which saw illegal immigration drop last year as a result of coronavirus.

With the impact of the pandemic set to ease over the coming nine months, UK authorities are braced for a bumper smuggling year.

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