English Channel migrant crossings step up a gear in 2022

As the weather gets warmer and the seas less choppy, more will try to reach the UK

Migrants picked by rescuers as they attempted to cross the English Channel. AFP

The rate at which people are trying to reach Britain via dangerous crossings of the English Channel in unseaworthy vessels is increasing in 2022.

UK rescue services have picked up 2,923 people making the dangerous journey in 97 boats so far in 2022 — a figure not reached last year until May 13.

In March alone, 1,439 people arrived, after setting off in 46 boats from northern France.

On Tuesday, more than 900 people were intercepted — the largest number of migrants in a single day this year.

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

As the weather gets warmer and the seas less choppy, more will try.

The UK’s National Crime Agency has renewed an appeal to the maritime industry to beware of organised crime groups targeting them to obtain small boats for people smugglers.

Red flags that a person may be involved are:

  • Buyers looking to pay in cash.
  • Repeat or bulk purchases of boats or equipment.
  • A lack of concern about the condition of the boat or equipment being purchased.
  • Buyers wanting to complete transactions quickly, cheaply, or without a delivery address.

The NCA said unusual purchases of untreated plywood boards, PVC tarpaulin sheets and duct tape could be suspicious.

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.

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.

Updated: March 18, 2022, 4:01 PM
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