Number of English Channel migrants this year exceeds 5,000

The UK government has struggled to reduce the flow of people trying to cross one of world's busiest shipping lanes in small boats

UK Border Force vessels often pick up migrants as they attempt to cross the Channel. AFP
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More than 5,000 migrants are believed to have reached the UK this year after risking their lives attempting to cross the English Channel in unseaworthy boats.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to confirm 600 people arrived on Wednesday — taking the total to above 5,000 since January 1 — and he will warn that the number of people making the crossing could reach 1,000 a day within weeks.

The UK government has struggled to control or reduce the influx of migrants from outside Europe using the Channel route, and is looking at new ways of handling them, including a plan to send them for processing in Rwanda.

There has also been a spike in refugees from Europe caused by the war in Ukraine. While the UK government has promised to help people from there who are trying to flee, it has also imposed conditions on the granting of refugee status.

Migrant crossings from France are routinely made in unseaworthy boats across one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

The refugees often have family in the UK or see the possibility of a better life there. Most of them are from the Middle East, Asia or Africa.

As of Tuesday, 4,617 had reached the UK since the start of the year, according to data obtained from the Home Office.

In the latest round of incidents, women and young children were among those seen on several boatloads arriving in Dover, Kent, after being brought ashore on Border Force vessels and Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) vessels.

A UK coast guard carries life jackets used by migrants after they were rescued. AFP

The previous highest daily total for this year was recorded on March 15 when 405 people made the crossing on 12 boats, data shows.

A record 1,185 people made the crossing to the UK on November 11, 2021.

In March this year, 3,066 people made the crossing — nearly four times the amount recorded for the same month in 2021 (831) and more than 16 times the amount for 2020 (187).

It is also the fourth highest monthly total recorded since the start of 2020, behind July (3,510), September (4,652) and November (6,869) last year.

A total of 28,395 people made the crossing in 2021, compared with 8,417 in 2020.

Updated: April 14, 2022, 8:52 AM