And still the boats come… Moment dinghy filled with migrants almost disappears beneath the waves before being escorted into British waters by French boats – as Tories warn Rishi he ‘can’t afford to fail’ in his bid to send asylum seekers to Rwanda

And still the boats come… Moment dinghy filled with migrants almost disappears beneath the waves before being escorted into British waters by French boats – as Tories warn Rishi he ‘can’t afford to fail’ in his bid to send asylum seekers to Rwanda

The first migrants to cross the Channel since James Cleverly became Home Secretary were intercepted by Border Force today – with footage showing an overflowing dinghy with at least 40 people on board almost disappearing beneath the choppy waves. 

The mostly male group, who were clad in warm clothing after battling chilly conditions at sea, were accompanied by a private vessel employed by the French authorities before being passed over to a British catamaran when they reached UK waters. 

They were brought into Dover just after midday, before a similar sized group were escorted into the port on another Border Force catamaran around an hour later. 

After taking over from Suella Braverman as Home Secretary on Monday, Mr Cleverly repeated the now familiar vow to ‘stop the boats’, but today’s photos – exclusively obtained by MailOnline – provided yet more evidence of just how distant this ambition remains. 

Robert Jenrick loaded more pressure onto Rishi Sunak last night by warning that the government ‘couldn’t afford to fail’ in its bid to start deportation flights to Rwanda after the Supreme Court knocked down the plan in a momentous ruling yesterday. 

Asked whether flights would begin in the spring, the immigration minister told LBC: ‘There’s no choice, but for us to do that. We cannot afford to fail; millions of people are asking us to do this. It is critical to our national security and to protecting our borders.

‘I don’t see a path to victory at the next general election unless we resolve this issue. I’ve been doing this job for a year. We are making good progress, but we will not stop the boats in their entirety without injecting a major deterrent – that is Rwanda.’

It comes as Mr Cleverly failed to deny claims he once described the Rwanda policy as ‘bats***’. In a tetchy interview on the Today programme, he accused presenter Amol Rajan of ‘stepping straight into the trap’ laid by his Labour counterpart Yvette Cooper

The first group numbering around 40 migrants, who were clad in warm clothing after battling chilly conditions at sea

The first group of migrants were brought ashore on Border Force catamaran Hurricane

A similar-sized group of migrants arrived from across the Channel around an hour later

A French escort vessel accompanying one of the migrant boats into English waters

Migrants being brought ashore at Dover after being intercepted by a Border Force vessel

The Border Force vessel Hurricane sits in the water as it picks up migrants from a small boat

Migrants sit in a small boat that is riding low in the water this morning, as a ferry moves across the English Channel in the background

A French escort ship follows a small boat overflowing with migrants on Thursday as people continue to try and cross the Channel

A Border Force vessel approaches an inflatable small boat carrying people trying to cross the Channel today

The group of migrants seekers arrived on the Kent coast today amid rain, blustery winds and poor visibility in the Channel. 

What is the PM’s plan for finally getting Rwanda flights going? 

1. Ratify a new Treaty with Rwanda that will guarantee asylum seekers sent there from the UK are not returned to danger in their country of origin.

2. Parliament passes ’emergency legislation’ formally designating Rwanda as a safe country.

3. If ‘foreign courts’ are still posing a problem the government is ready to ignore, water down or force reforms to the European Convention on Human Rights and UN Refugee Convention.

4. Flights carrying asylum seekers should start taking off by the Spring, although the PM refused to guarantee that timetable.  


One man appeared to be limping as he linked arms with another person on board.

It comes at a sensitive time for the government, which is reeling from yesterday’s Supreme Court judgement declaring its Rwanda scheme to be against the law. 

Sacked Home Secretary Suella Braverman had accused Rishi Sunak of having ‘no Plan B’ if the policy was blocked by judges.   

Unveiling his response to the decision last night, the PM vowed to end the political and legal ‘merry-go-round’ by pledging a new treaty with the East African country and emergency legislation allowing Parliament to declare it safe for asylum seekers.

And in a nod to the fury of the Tory Right, he insisted if that failed he was ready to ignore the European Convention on Human Rights rather than let ‘foreign courts’ stand in the way of action. 

Planes should start leaving for Rwanda next Spring, he said – although he would not guarantee the timetable. That would potentially be just months before a general election.

‘Let me tell everyone now – I will not allow a foreign court to block these flights,’ Mr Sunak said.

‘If the Strasbourg Court chooses to intervene against the express wishes of Parliament I am prepared to do whatever is necessary to get flights off.

‘I will not take the easy way out.’

The comments were immediately dismissed by Suella Braverman‘s allies as just another version of the previous strategy. 

Apollo Moon was also seen escorting migrants in the Channel today. It is one of the private patrol vessels that have been employed by the French after funding from Britain

A group of people believed to be migrants sit in an inflatable small boat as it travels through the water in the English Channel today

A French escort vessel watches on as a group of migrants attempt to cross the water between France and England

French support vessel Apollo Moon shadows a small boat containing migrants as they try to cross the Channel

After taking over from Suella Braverman as Home Secretary on Monday, Mr Cleverly repeated the now familiar vow to 'stop the boats'

Mr Cleverly clashed with Amol Rajan this morning on the BBC's flagship Today programme on Radio 4

Mr Sunak said he ‘shared the frustrations’ of Tory MPs who have been urging him to water down human rights rules or simply ignore the Supreme Court.

The premier said he disagreed with the decision, but ‘respected’ it.   

Mr Cleverly was asked about the defeat in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning. 

But the exchange became bad tempered when the minister accused Amol Rajan of  ‘making statements’ rather than asking questions before threatening to ‘go and get a cup of tea’.

Asked if he recalled privately calling the Rwanda policy ‘bats***’, Mr Cleverly did not completely deny using the phrase but said: ‘I don’t remember a conversation like that.’  

Mr Cleverly could not contain his frustration as the presenter read out passages from yesterday’s Supreme Court judgment that the deportations policy was illegal.

And he took umbrage after Mr Rajan raised former judge Lord Sumption’s criticism of the idea that Parliament could legislating to declare Rwanda safe as a fact. 

After the host described one answer as ‘extraordinary’ and then interrupted an explanation of the government’s position, Mr Cleverly said: ‘Are you asking questions or are you making statements? 

‘Because if you’re just going to make a statement I can go and get a cup of tea.’ 

Mr Rajan retorted: ‘You’re making statements, I’m trying to ask questions.’ 

Mr Cleverly said: ‘I am here. I want to answer questions but you’re making statements and then moving on without giving me an opportunity to address the statements that you make, a number of which I disagree with. 

‘They are not my statements. I am reporting what people like Jonathan Sumption have to say.’  

Rishi Sunak has been talking tough after the Supreme Court setback yesterday, with the Tories releasing images repeating his vow to 'stop the boats'

At a press conference in No10, the PM pledged a new treaty with the country and said Parliament will declare that it is safe for asylum seekers

In his round of interviews this morning, Mr Cleverly said the government is ‘absolutely determined’ to get a removal flight to Rwanda off before the next election.

The Cabinet minister said he does not ‘think’ the UK will need to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as they come under pressure from the Tory right.

He defended plans for emergency legislation to get Parliament to deem Rwanda a ‘safe’ country despite the Supreme Court’s concerns over risks to asylum seekers.

The Government is working to broker a new legally binding treaty on top of the £140 million deal already struck with Kigali after five top justices ruled against the policy on Wednesday.

Mr Cleverly insisted that MPs could ratify the treaty once it is agreed and pass new laws within days.

‘The whole process won’t necessarily be done and dusted just in a few days, but the actual parliamentary process can be that quick,’ he told Times Radio.

It comes as new figures revealed the number of lone child asylum seekers in England has risen by almost a third in a year.

Unaccompanied child asylum seekers are defined as those who have applied for asylum in their own right and are separated from both parents or any other responsible adult.

Local authorities have a legal duty to provide accommodation for them.

In the year to March, Kent looked after the largest number of unaccompanied child asylum seekers at 445 young people, followed by Hampshire at 239 and Manchester at 172. 

A hostel in Kigali that was due to be used by asylum seekers sent to Rwanda from the UK

Supreme Court president Lord Reed passing his judgment on the Rwanda deal yesterday

The Department for Education said unaccompanied child asylum seekers made up 9 per cent of all looked-after children.

The majority (96 per cent) were male, up from 90 per cent in 2019, and unaccompanied child asylum seekers were generally older than other looked-after children.

Around 14% were aged under 16 years old, compared to 74% of all looked-after children, the department said.

For the first time, this year details on the type of placements for unaccompanied child asylum seekers showed that the proportion ending up in so-called semi-independent settings has risen, while foster placements and independent arrangements have decreased.

Almost half (45 per cent) were placed in semi-independent settings, up from 24 per cent in 2019.

Semi-independent settings are those in which a person will generally have access to their own facilities such as a kitchen but will have some supervisory or advice staff available to them if needed. These can include hostels, YMCAs, lodgings and bedsits.

Mr Sunak's comments were immediately dismissed by Suella Braverman 's allies as just another version of the previous strategy

Mrs Braverman has warned Mr Sunak has no credible back-up to 'stop the boats'

Foster carers looked after 38 per cent of unaccompanied child asylum seekers, down from 50 per cent in 2019.

Paul Carberry, chief executive at Action for Children, said: ‘We need to see a clear shift from the current system. That means urgent cash from central government and a fire lit under its social care reform plans.

‘It must ensure proper funding for early help services to reduce the numbers of children going into care, better support for those leaving care to return home so they don’t end up back in the care system, and improved standards of care.

‘This approach will not only benefit those children and their future life chances, but also the taxpayer, who is currently footing the bill for an expensive and broken care system.’

While local authorities have a general duty to provide accommodation within their area, allowing the child to live near their home, around a fifth (21%) of looked-after children were placed over 20 miles from home.

This proportion has been similar for the past five years.

Rory Tingle

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