More than 8,000 migrants have arrived in the UK since the start of the year by crossing the English Channel on small boats from France, new figures show.
The number for 2022 so far – which stands at 8,393 according to the latest data – is more than double the amount recorded for the same period last year (3,112) and more than six times that of the equivalent period in 2020 (1,340), analysis of government data by the PA news agency indicates.
Despite the Conservative-led government’s recent efforts to deter people with a deportation plan involving Rwanda, more than 600 people made the often dangerous voyage across the busy shipping lane at the weekend.
The arrivals came after a brief lull last week when no crossings were recorded over a four-day period of unsettled weather.
A total of 436 people arrived on the UK’s shores in nine boats on Sunday after 167 in 13 boats came on Saturday, Ministry of Defence figures show.
The latest influxes were recorded after the Home Office last week said asylum seekers would be informed about the deportation to Rwanda within days. The first 6,400-kilometre flights are expected to leave in the coming months.
Tom Pursglove, a UK government immigration minister, last week told MPs on the Commons Home Affairs Committee that the scheme was a “new and untested policy” and could not point to what modelling was used to give the “evidence base” to implement it.
No 10 Downing Street acknowledged crossings would continue while work takes place to set up the Rwanda policy.
“Short-term, we will continue to see these crossings take place until this policy is fully established,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said.
Asked if the Rwanda scheme was meant to be a deterrent, the spokesman said: “We want to establish the policy in full and we believe that once fully established it will be successful in reversing some of this growing trend we have seen.”
Tackling the issue of migrants travelling from France has been a source of tension between Mr Johnson’s administration and the French government.
Asked whether France could be doing more, the spokesman said: “Certainly we want to go further in partnership with the French government.
“You will know that we are providing them with significant funding and there have been a number of successes, thousands of potential crossings have been thwarted but we do think there is more to do.”
There have been nine days of crossings so far in May, with 1,700 people arriving in the UK as a result.
The highest daily total for 2022 to date was recorded on April 13 when 651 people made the crossing in 18 boats.
A record 1,185 people made the crossing to the UK on November 11, 2021 – the highest recorded in a single day since the start of 2020.
Separately, data from the United Nations' refugee agency shows at least 120,441 people arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean in 2021.