by Oleg Burunov
More than 7,000 migrants have crossed the Channel into Britain so far in 2020, while last year about 1,800 refugees arrived in the country, using one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
A UK Army live firing drill was suspended on Wednesday after a group of migrants crossed the Channel on a speedboat and then landed on the Ministry of Defence’s shooting range in the county of Kent amid the exercises.
The Daily Mail cited a Defence Ministry spokesman as saying that “the firing was halted for two hours” and that “a Territorial Army unit was on the range at the time”.
A representative of Kent Police, in turn, told the newspaper that they “assisted [the] Border Force and other partner agencies after a report of suspected migrants seen near Dungeness at 8.55am on Wednesday”.
The statement came after a group of 16 asylum seekers reportedly travelled 21 miles (33 kilometres) across the Channel before entering Romney Marshes, a sparsely populated wetland area in Kent, where the drill was being conducted.
Police and immigration officers were then called to detain the migrants who got off the speedboat and ran inland, prompting the British Army’s reservist unit to temporarily stop firing.
An Albanian passport was allegedly found on board the vessel, among the discarded life jackets, in what further raised concerns that smuggling gangs from Albania continue to carry out the illegal crossings
The Telegraph reported in this vein that the landing “will raise serious questions for Home Office officials because the boat on which the group travelled was fitted with a 300bhp engine which costs £20,000 ($26,000) on its own”.
Wednesday’s incident followed Dan O’Mahoney, the UK Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, who is in charge of preventing the crossings, telling The Telegraph last week that Britain is preparing to use nets to routinely “disable” dinghies carrying migrants across the Channel.
He also said that the UK government was using social media campaigns to urge would-be migrants in Africa and the Middle East to claim asylum in the first safe country in which they arrive, rather than risking their lives in an “incredibly dangerous journey” to reach Britain illegally.
An estimated 7,173 migrants have so far made the Channel crossing into the UK this year, a significant increase as compared with the whole of 2019, when at least 1,850 refugees entered the country by using one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.