Migrants arriving in UK by English Channel route top 6,000 for this year

The Royal Navy has taken 'operational command' of handling illegal channel crossings

Migrants arrive in Dover, south-east England, after being picked up by UK Border Force. Getty
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The number of migrants who have reached the UK by crossing the English Channel has topped 6,000, official figures showed.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed 181 migrants crossed to the UK on six boats on Friday, with more expected as warmer temperatures and calm winds are forecast for weekend.

The Royal Navy took over “operational command” of handling migrants crossing the English Channel on Thursday.

At the same time, the UK announced a plan — which has been criticised for potentially breaking international law — to send migrants arriving in the UK to Rwanda.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said asylum seekers will be flown to Rwanda on a one-way ticket under government plans to stop thousands of people crossing the channel in small boats.

He said the numbers sent to Rwanda will not be capped and successful claimants would “build a new life in that dynamic country” rather than be allowed to return to the UK.

Two thirds of the people arriving through the Channel route are confirmed to be refugees, said Alf Dubs, 89, a campaigner for refugees who escaped Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia.

A total of 651 people on 18 boats were rescued or intercepted on Wednesday, April 13, making it the highest number in a day so far this year. Another 562 arrived on Thursday on 14 boats.

A record 1,185 people made the crossing to the UK on November 11, 2021 — the highest recorded so far since the start of 2020.

In March this year, 3,066 people made the crossing. This is nearly four times the tally recorded for the same month in 2021 (831) and more than 16 times the number in March 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 last year, compared with 8,417 in 2020.

Matthew Rycroft, the permanent secretary for the Home Office, said he has led “a rigorous assessment of the regularity, propriety, feasibility and value for money” of the new policy.

“Evidence of a deterrent effect is highly uncertain and cannot be quantified with sufficient certainty to provide me with the necessary level of assurance over value for money,” he wrote.

“I do not believe sufficient evidence can be obtained to demonstrate that the policy will have a deterrent effect significant enough to make the policy value for money.”

Updated: April 17, 2022, 8:15 AM