Migrant crossings: A timeline of key events and issues in 2020

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Following Home Secretary Priti Patel’s announcement of a new agreement with French authorities, the PA news agency recaps some of the biggest developments around migrant crossings in 2020.


– A former head of Border Force tells PA that people smugglers are not going to give up, and more migrants are likely to die as a result.

– Dover MP Natalie Elphicke calls for a “fresh approach” to the situation after witnesses saw young children being rescued from the Channel.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
Dover MP Natalie Elphicke speaks about the migrant crisis (Michael Drummond/PA)

– The Home Office confirms that migrants arriving in the UK in small boats will face a 14-day compulsory isolation period due to the coronavirus pandemic.


– Four migrants try to cross the English Channel aboard a makeshift raft made from two windsurfing boards that had been lashed together.


– The Home Office becomes embroiled in a row over what it called “activist lawyers” who it said were frustrating efforts to send migrants back to France. Lawyers branded it an “assault on the rule of law” and the Home Office is later forced to abandon the video using the phrase.

– Ms Patel hails a “new operational approach” following a fresh agreement with her French counterpart, on the same day a then-record 180 migrants are intercepted by Border Force.

– MPs are told the UK Government is locked in a row with France over differing “interpretations” of maritime law in efforts to tackle the crossings.

– Campaigners suggest “cruel” evictions of migrants from camps in Calais are fuelling attempts to reach the UK by boat.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
(Gareth Fuller/PA)

– The Home Affairs Committee launches a full investigation into the crisis.

– On a day when at least 235 migrants crossed to the UK, charity Detention Action said the Home Office had “lost control and all credibility on this issue”.

– Speculation arises over whether the Royal Navy would be drafted in to help deal with small boat crossings, described by a Ministry of Defence (MoD) as “inappropriate and unnecessary”.

– The mayor of Calais says that sending the Royal Navy to deal with migrant crossings would be a “declaration of maritime war”.

– RAF planes are authorised to act in a surveillance capacity over the Channel.

– The Home Secretary appoints former Royal Marine Dan O’Mahoney as Clandestine Channel Threat Commander.

– Immigration minister Chris Philp promises a “new, comprehensive action plan” after talks with French officials.

– The plight of unaccompanied migrant children is thrust into the spotlight after it emerges that any new arrivals would be left with Border Force after Kent County Council announced it had reached capacity.

– The body of a young Sudanese migrant is found on a French beach. French politician Pierre-Henri Dumont said the death was caused by Britain’s refusal to allow asylum claims to be made outside the UK.

(PA Graphics)

– The Home Office announces that migrants are to be housed in military barracks in Kent and Wales while their asylum claims are processed.

– A group of Syrian migrants deported from the UK were left “confused and distressed” when they ended up alone on the streets of Madrid.

– Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, suggests French politicians were “putting around misconceptions” about life in the UK for undocumented migrants on small boats.

– The National Crime Agency (NCA) tells media that the issue of migrant crossings will be “here for a while” despite efforts to combat smugglers.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
Home Secretary Priti Patel (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

– Inspectors find that migrants arriving in Kent soaking wet and freezing after crossing the Channel are being processed at what resembles a “rubble-strewn building site”.

– The body of a migrant who died trying to cross the Channel from France to the UK is found on a beach outside Calais.

– A migrant boat capsizes amid bad weather, leading to the deaths of four members of a Kurdish-Iranian family and several others go missing, including a baby boy.


– A report claims the evolution of border security in and around the English Channel is a “history of death” that has seen nearly 300 people lose their lives

– Ms Patel announces a new agreement with French authorities, including that the number of officers patrolling French beaches will double.

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