On the day Priti Patel announced a “new operational approach” to dealing with small boat crossings, a record number of migrants made it to the UK.
At least 180 migrants were able to cross the English Channel to the UK on Sunday – a new single-day record.
They were among more than 380 migrants who attempted the crossing on Sunday, the Home Office confirmed on Monday morning.
More than 200 migrants were intercepted by French authorities and prevented from reaching the UK.
While a huge search and rescue operation was launched in the Channel to deal with “a number of incidents” off the UK coast, the Home Secretary was in Calais for talks with her newly appointed French counterpart.
Ms Patel and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin agreed to create a Franco-British intelligence cell, both politicians announced on Sunday afternoon.
Ms Patel hailed the agreement – the full details of which have not yet been made public – as a “new operational approach”.
It comes as numbers of migrants trying to cross the English Channel have surged during lockdown, with some taking on the journey in kayaks and even a paddling pool.
Sunday’s additions bring the total number of migrants who have managed to cross the Channel to the UK in 2020 to more than 2,500, according to analysis by the PA news agency.
At least 32 migrants crossed to the UK on Monday, the Home Office has confirmed.
Announcing the new agreement on Sunday, Ms Patel said: “But, despite all of the action taken by law enforcement to date – intercepting the boats, making arrests, returning people to France and putting the criminals responsible behind bars – the numbers continue to increase.
“This simply cannot be allowed to go on. Today, I have signed an agreement with the French to create a joint intelligence cell which will crack down on the gangs behind this vile people-smuggling operation and impressed on my French counterpart the need to stop these illegal crossings for the benefit of both our countries.
“This is the start of a new operational approach with the newly appointed French interior minister.”
It is not clear if the new agreement includes measures to return migrants picked up in UK waters to France.
Bella Sankey, director of charity Detention Action, said: “The Home Secretary’s attempt to treat this issue as solely about people smuggling, ignoring the plight of those desperate enough to risk their lives to seek sanctuary in the UK, is being disingenuous and she is taking the British public for fools.
“The only way to end suffering in the English Channel is to create safe routes for those who believe they have a claim to be in the UK so that those claims can be determined fairly and that families can be reunited where possible.”
Bridget Chapman, spokeswoman for Kent Refugee Action Network, said: “This issue is clearly not going to go away and we call on the Government to work with their French counterparts to establish ways for people to be able to have safe and legal passage.”