UK flies air force plane over Channel amid migrant crossings

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A Border Force vessel assist a group of people thought to be migrants on board from their inflatable dinghy in the Channel, Monday Aug. 10, 2020. A Royal Air Force surveillance plane is flying over the English Channel as the British government tries to curb the number of people crossing from France in small boats. Britains Conservative government has talked tough amid a surge in the number of migrants crossing the Channel during recent warm summer weather. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)

LONDON – A Royal Air Force surveillance plane flew over the English Channel on Monday as the British government sought to stop a growing number of people making the hazardous crossing from France in small boats.

Britain’s Conservative government has talked tough amid a surge in the number of migrants crossing the Channel during recent warm summer weather. More than 650 have arrived so far in August — including 235 in a single day last week — with pregnant women, babies and unaccompanied children among them..

An inflatable dinghy carrying about 20 people was met by a U.K. Border Force boat on Monday and escorted to the port of Dover.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said trying to make the voyage was “a very bad and stupid and dangerous and criminal thing to do.”

“Be in no doubt what’s going on is the activity of cruel and criminal gangs who are risking the lives of these people taking them across the Channel, a pretty dangerous stretch of water in potentially unseaworthy vessels,” Johnson said during a visit to a school near London.

U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel appointed a former Royal Marine commando, Dan O’Mahoney, as “clandestine Channel threat commander” to try and make unauthorized sea crossings “unviable.”

Patel has also said the Royal Navy could be called in to prevent boats reaching U.K. waters, though other senior officials and politicians say that would be impractical and potentially dangerous because small boats could capsize if they are forced back to the French shore.

The Ministry of Defense said it was considering how the military could best help. It said the RAF Atlas aircraft was deployed on Monday “to support Border Force operations in the Channel.”