A group of migrants on Wednesday landed on a beach in southern England after a lull in arrivals on small boats due to rough seas.
Forty people were seen disembarking from a British lifeboat on Dungeness Beach in Kent.
About 9,000 people have arrived in small boats since the start of 2021, exceeding the number for the whole of 2020.
Traffickers shifted to boat-based operations after tighter security at ferry and train terminals in France and coronavirus-related travel restrictions made it harder to smuggle people in the backs of lorries.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), a volunteer organisation that aims to save lives at sea, was criticised as a “migrant taxi service” for rescuing people who attempted the journey. It said it had a duty to help those in distress.
Despite migrant numbers falling, the British government last month proposed a law to dissuade them from travelling to the UK. It was the latest in a series of announcements intended to limit the number of people attempting to illegally cross one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
Home Secretary Priti Patel also announced a multimillion pound funding package to help France improve security on its side of the Channel to stop people using its beaches as departure points for southern England.
An increased number of border patrol vessels in the Channel — which is 33 kilometres wide at its narrowest point — has reduced the number of small boats reaching English shores under their own steam.
France has also intercepted three times the number of small boats this year compared with 2020, while most of those people who make it into English waters are stopped mid-journey and taken to the UK to start the long process of claiming migrant status.
Ministers had promised to make the route “unviable” for migrants, but thousands were reported to be waiting in northern France to cross.
The Home Office launched an advertising campaign in December directed at migrants in France to urge them to stop coming, but refugee charities said it has been ineffective.