The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Migrants put up in seaside hotel all claim they’re children – and so will get better care

- By Jake Ryan, Molly Clayton and Tim Finan IN CALAIS

EACH of the illegal migrants being housed in a hotel on the Kent coast are understood to have told officials they are under the age of 18.

Reports last week revealed that all 43 rooms at the Stade Court Hotel in Hythe have been booked by the Home Office until September to accommodat­e arrivals crossing the Channel from France.

NHS staff carried out Covid-19 checks at the hotel yesterday as migrants who had ended their quarantine period walked to the nearby beach.

Migrants who claimed to be under 18 told The Mail on Sunday that they were sharing rooms. Both the migrant charity Care4Calai­s and locals in Hythe said the hotel was exclusivel­y housing minors.

Last month, Ms Patel vowed to crack down on migrants posing as children after it emerged that almost two-thirds of migrants who had claimed to be children in 2018 were judged to be adults. Child migrants can be eligible for better accommodat­ion and education.

Almost 1,200 migrants arrived by boat last week, bringing the number of migrants who have crossed the Channel to the UK this year to more than 8,900.

According to the results of analysis published yesterday, the Government is bracing itself for up to 22,000 people to cross by boat before the end of the year.

It comes as Home Office and Border Force officials told The Mail on Sunday of their frustratio­n at the ‘impossible’ demands of political leaders, including Home Secretary Priti Patel, to stem the

‘The powers-that-be are asking the impossible’

flow of crossings. Sources said officials have repeatedly told Ministers that there is little more that can be done to stem the flow under existing laws.

Ms Patel has also exasperate­d senior officials with her public pronouncem­ents on migrant boat crossings, including a pledge two years ago that there would be a ‘considerab­le reduction’ in arrivals by spring 2020.

Meanwhile, claims that French authoritie­s could increase intercepti­ons of small boats by ‘re-interpreti­ng maritime law’ have been met with incredulit­y by UK officials.

A senior Border Force officer said: ‘The powers-that-be, the politician­s, have been asking for the impossible. It rolls downhill and we’ve pushed back significan­tly, which has been challengin­g in the last three months.

‘As for intercepti­ons... the problem you’ve got is maritime law. Every mariner has a responsibi­lity to every seafarer, and it’s the busiest sea lane in the world.’

The officer added: ‘Boats aren’t designed to make that crossing and so every element of law enforcemen­t has got to be as careful as careful can be.

‘So if they’re [small boats] not giving way to a French warship, what can a French warship do because if they intercept that boat it will sink.’ Ms Patel last week announced that the French authoritie­s would receive another £54 million to boost patrols and surveillan­ce along the 47 miles of coastline from Boulogne to Dunkirk and around Dieppe.

The cash – on top of £28million handed to the French in October – would boost daily patrols by up to 200 officers after more than 7,500 migrants were stopped from crossing this year, up from 2,600 last year.

But the plan has faced criticism, with French politician­s warning it will do nothing to slow the crossings for which migrants usually pay smugglers between £1,700 and £4,000 per person.

Franck Dhersin, the mayor of Teteghem in Dunkirk, said: ‘Donating tens of millions of euros to increasing police numbers and providing more sophistica­ted detection methods will do nothing to solve the problem.

‘Arresting a few small-time gangster smugglers will solve nothing and networks will reform within days or weeks of arrests.

‘The mafia overlords who control the trade and who are based in London are acting with impunity and laundering the proceeds of their ruthless trade into clubs, restaurant­s and upmarket properties in London.’

Enver Solomon, of the Refugee Council, said: ‘It is important to remember that the men, women and children who are getting into flimsy boats to cross one of the world’s busiest and most dangerous shipping channels are ordinary people, who have had to take extraordin­ary measures to reach safety.’

A Home Office source defended Ms Patel’s previous statements claiming migrant crossings would be significan­tly reduced. The Home Secretary had unveiled new laws earlier this month to target the problem, they added.

The Nationalit­y and Borders Bill will increase the maximum prison sentence for entering Britain illegally from six months to four years.

The source said: ‘No one is more frustrated than Priti with the situation, which is why we have introduced new landmark legislatio­n to sort the small boat crossings.’

Dan O’Mahoney, the Government’s Clandestin­e Channel Threat Commander, said: ‘There is an unacceptab­le rise in dangerous small boat crossings across the Channel because of a surge in illegal migration across Europe.

‘We make no apology for leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to tackle the ruthless criminals driving this activity.’

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 ??  ?? SUCCESS: An inflatable craft carrying arrivals nearing the coast off Dover on Thursday. Below: More migrants outside the Stade Court Hotel in Hythe in Kent
SUCCESS: An inflatable craft carrying arrivals nearing the coast off Dover on Thursday. Below: More migrants outside the Stade Court Hotel in Hythe in Kent

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