Immigration officials put 10 of the asylum seekers found in Harwich on a removal flight to Germany, while another four individuals were put on a flight to France. The returnees included nationals from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait and Yemen.
Campaigners have said the decision to pursue the immediate removal of asylum seekers jeopardises their safety, and called on the home secretary to review deportation plans.
However, the Home Office said it was planning on organising more charter flights in the coming days – and insisted that the Dublin regulation required asylum seekers to claim asylum in the first safe country they arrive in.
“We have removed a number of migrants who arrived illegally from France in small boats and had no right to remain in the UK,” said a Home Office spokesperson.
“They were returned to both France and Germany – those who seek asylum can and should claim it in the first safe country they enter. We are working to increase the number of returnees countries are willing to accept on each flight and there are more flights planned for the coming weeks and months.”
Bella Sankey, director of charity Detention Action, said the removals put public safety at risk during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The government’s giddy attempts to restart mass deportation flights, as both France and the UK introduce quarantine measures, is an affront to public health,” she said. “It also trashes the UK’s record for refugee protection.”
The government also hailed joint efforts with France to tackle the “criminal gangs” responsible for organised many of the crossings. The French authorities prevented three crossings involving 36 people on Tuesday, according to the Home Office.
Dan O’Mahoney, Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, said: “These migrants are leaving France which is a safe country, where those seeking refuge can and should claim asylum, rather than attempting these perilous crossings to the UK. We continue to return those who do not have a legitimate asylum claim despite barriers to removals under the Dublin Regulation and legal challenge, and more flights are planned in the upcoming weeks.”
The latest figures show September has been the busiest month of 2020 for migrant crossings in the English Channel – with Border Force officers picking up 1,487 people so far. It’s slightly more than the 1,468 people who made the journey in August.