Channel migrants: more than 25,000 arrive in UK in small boats this year

A group, including women and children, was brought ashore by members of the RNLI on Saturday

A woman with a child are brought in to Dungeness, Kent, onboard an RNLI lifeboat. Photo: PA
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More than 25,000 migrants have illegally crossed the English Channel to the UK in small boats so far this year, government figures show.

Saturday’s influx of 915 people, including women and children in 19 dinghies, brought the total to 25,146.

There have been 8,747 crossings detected in August so far, with 3,733 in the past week, analysis shows.

The highest daily total on record was reported on August 22, with 1,295 people crossing in 27 boats.

The late-summer surge in the number of people making the perilous voyage across the Channel comes more than four months after Home Secretary Priti Patel announced plans to send migrants to Rwanda.

Ms Patel is under pressure from Conservative Party figures to stamp out the illegal practice by deterring people from boarding boats on the northern coast of France.

But the threat of being sent to the East-Central African country appears to have little effect on migrants, as more than 19,800 have arrived on the south-east coast of the UK since the policy was unveiled.

Hundreds of migrants were seen being brought ashore by members of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute at Dungeness in Kent on Saturday, before being transferred by coach to a Home Office processing centre.

More are expected over the bank holiday weekend as mild weather is forecast.

The UK's Ministry of Defence recorded the latest arrivals as it was revealed that the cost of the nation's asylum system has topped £2 billion ($2.3bn) a year, with the highest number of claims for two decades and record delays for people awaiting a decision.

Home Office spending on asylum rose by £756 million from around £1.4bn in 2020/21 to £2.1bn in 2021/22. This is the highest on record and is more than double the amount spent in 2019/20, official figures showed.

The 63,089 applications in the year to June 2022 is also the highest number for any 12-month period since the year to June 2003, when 71,316 applications were made, the department said.

Officials are understood to be working hard to reduce the backlog of outstanding asylum claims, but are struggling to keep up with the number of new applications.

Earlier this week, the number of migrants crossing the Channel and arriving in the UK reached a record of 1,295, according to government figures.

The new number is the highest daily total since current records began in 2018.

Ministry of Defence data showed that 27 boats made the journey, which suggests an average of about 48 people travelling in each boat.

The previous highest daily number was 1,185, recorded on November 11.

The Conservative-led government has come under fierce criticism from human rights groups over its Rwanda policy.

On April 14, Ms Patel signed what she described as a “world-first” agreement with Rwanda, under which the African nation will receive migrants deemed by the UK to have arrived “illegally”, and are therefore inadmissible under new immigration rules.

However, the first deportation flight — scheduled to take off on June 14 — was grounded amid legal challenges.

Several asylum seekers, the Public and Commercial Services union and charities Care4Calais, Detention Action and Asylum Aid are challenging the legality of the Home Office policy, with the next court hearings due in September and October.

Updated: August 28, 2022, 2:36 PM