Girl in pink onesie among first migrants to cross English Channel in 2022

At least 66 people succeeded in making perilous trip to Britain aboard two boats on Tuesday

A man thought to be a migrant carries a small child after they were brought in to Dover, Kent, following a small boat incident in the Channel. PA

A little girl wearing a pink onesie is among the first people to have crossed the English Channel in 2022.

The little girl and the man who carried her arrived in the busy Kent port aboard a Royal National Lifeboat Institution vessel on a chilly Tuesday morning along with others fresh from the dangerous sea journey.

They were escorted up the gangway by immigration officials before being taken off to be processed.

At least 66 people succeeded in making the perilous trip aboard two boats on Tuesday, the Home Office confirmed.

The latest arrivals — believed to be the first this year — come after more than 28,300 people crossed the Dover Strait aboard small boats in 2021, triple the number in 2020.

Last year’s record number — an increase of about 20,000 on 2020 — came despite millions of pounds promised to French authorities to tackle the issue.

A Home Office minister said the government is “reforming” its approach to asylum through its New Plan for Immigration.

Also seen arriving in Dover on Tuesday morning were a man and woman leading a child wrapped in a blanket — perhaps a family of three.

A number of Border Force and French boats were active in the Channel on Tuesday amid renewed attempts to cross the dangerous waters.

During the past 12 months, smugglers have packed more and more people aboard larger dinghies, sometimes with deadly consequences.

But arrivals will continue and more people will drown in the narrow sea between France and Britain if the government pursues its “dangerous and callous policy”, ministers have been told by humanitarian organisations.

Overall, at least 28,395 people reached the UK aboard small boats in 2021, analysis by the PA news agency showed.

Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive at Refugee Action, said that the UK government’s policy will lead to more deaths in the Dover Strait.

“People will continue to cross the Channel in flimsy boats and smugglers will continue to profit, unless ministers open up more routes for refugees to claim asylum here,” he said.

“[In November], we saw the deadly result of their strategy of keeping people out rather than keeping people safe, when at least 27 people died near our coast.

“And yet the government wants to legalise this dangerous and callous policy in its Anti-Refugee Bill, which will only lead to more people drowning. It must wake up and scrap this bill now.”

“Seeking asylum for protection should not involve people asylum shopping country to country, or risking their lives by lining the pockets of criminal gangs to cross the Channel,” said Home Office minister Tom Pursglove.

He said the government is “reforming” its approach by “making the tough decisions to end the overt exploitation of our laws and UK taxpayers”.

Updated: January 4th 2022, 11:06 PM