More than 900 intercepted trying to cross English Channel in one day

British authorities stopped 405 people in 12 boats, while the French stopped another 538 in 11 boats

A UK coastguard helps migrants get off the UK Border Force vessel 'Alert' after they were picked up attempting to cross the English Channel. AFP
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More than 900 people in small boats have been intercepted crossing the English Channel in what is thought to be the largest number of migrants attempting to reach the UK in a single day so far this year.

Among the arrivals on Tuesday were several children, including a baby, who were brought to shore by a Royal Naval Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) rescue lifeboat at Dungeness in Kent.

The English Channel humanitarian crisis continues unabated, even as the war in Ukraine forces millions to leave their homes.

Northern France is often used as the last-leg launch pad for migrants trying to reach southern England after fleeing violence and hunger in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

They face the hurdle of the English Channel - one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world - which is used by some of the biggest cargo vessels in the world.

A coastguard carries a child at Dover marina. AFP

If the migrants, often using tiny, unseaworthy vessels, can make the crossing — just 35 kilometres at its narrowest point — there is the chance they could be processed as asylum seekers.

If unsuccessful, they could lose their lives en route. The biggest loss of life in a single incident last year was when 27 drowned after their boat sank.

The UK authorities intercepted 405 people in 12 boats on Tuesday, while the French stopped another 538 people in 11 boats.

The coastguard carries life jackets for migrants. AFP

More than 2,500 people have crossed the Channel since the start of the year. A record 28,526 made the crossing in 2021.

A Home Office spokeswoman said joint operations with the French had “prevented more than 23,000 migrant attempts” in 2021 and dismantled 19 related organised criminal groups, with 400 arrests made since July 2020.

Tom Pursglove, minister for justice and tackling illegal migration, said: “The rise in dangerous Channel crossings is unacceptable.

“Not only are they an overt abuse of our immigration laws but they also impact on the UK taxpayer, risk lives and our ability to help refugees come to the UK via safe and legal routes. Rightly, the British public has had enough.

“Through our Nationality and Borders Bill, we're cracking down on people smugglers and fixing the broken system by making it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK illegally and introducing a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for those who facilitate illegal entry into the country.

“Our targeted work with French authorities led to over 500 people [being] intercepted before attempting this treacherous journey to reach the UK.”

Updated: March 16, 2022, 3:59 PM