‘More than 200 people arrive in Dover' after 11-day Channel-crossing pause

Witnesses saw large groups being brought ashore by UK Border Force officials on Sunday

A group, thought to be migrants, is brought in to Dover, Kent, having been found in a boat in the English Channel on Monday. PA
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

More than 200 people have crossed the English Channel to Dover after an apparent pause of 11 days.

Another group of about 30 people was seen arriving in Kent, south-east England on Border Force rescue vessels on Monday. The 254 people rescued on Sunday were the first migrants found on the waterway dividing Britain and France since a UK plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was announced.

The hiatus in attempted Channel crossings coincided with poor weather and choppy seas.

The Ministry of Defence is understood to be aware of a number of events in the Channel but would not comment on the specific numbers arriving.

The MoD took over control of migrant operations in April, when the government also revealed plans to send some of those making the cross-Channel journey to Rwanda.

There is believed to have been an 11-day break in activity around the Channel, from April 20 to 30, when no crossings were recorded, amid reports of strong winds and choppy seas.

Two longer gaps of 16 and 13 days without crossings were recorded this year, before the Rwanda deal was announced.

The MoD publishes data on the daily number of detected border crossings retrospectively, so Sunday’s official figures will be confirmed later on Monday.

“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,” a UK government representative said.

The government’s Nationality and Borders Bill ― called the anti-refugee Bill by campaigners as it makes it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK illegally and includes powers to process asylum seekers overseas — became law on Thursday.

Home Secretary Priti Patel last month signed what she described as a “world-first” agreement with Rwanda.

The deal will see the East African nation receive asylum seekers deemed by the UK to be inadmissible, having arrived “illegally” under new immigration rules. However, the proposal has been met with criticism and is already facing legal challenges.

Pierre-Henri Dumont, the French National Assembly member for Calais, on Monday predicted Channel crossings would pick up in the coming months as summer rolls in.

"We are going into the summer so we will have less waves and less danger for the smugglers. So we will have more and more people going to cross," he told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One programme.

Mr Dumont suggested there was evidence that the plan to process asylum applications in Rwanda was encouraging migrants to attempt the crossing before these measures took effect.

“From what I heard from the migrants, it seems that the news of the new legislation in the UK with Rwanda gives the smugglers the availability of new commercial arguments [to] the migrants to urge them to cross quickly for them not to be sent away because of this new legislation," he said.

Since the start of the year, at least 6,693 people have reached the UK after navigating busy shipping lanes from France in small boats, data compiled by PA indicates.

That is more than three times the amount recorded this time last year (2,004) and more than six times the figure for the same period in 2020 (1,006).

Typically, there can be periods of several days or weeks without migrant crossings throughout the year, often depending on weather.

The longest period without any crossings so far in 2022 was 16 days, between January 27 and February 11, PA analysis of government figures shows.

Updated: May 02, 2022, 1:56 PM