Number of migrants crossing Channel in single day hits record high

Crossings from France to the UK have reached highest level since records began in 2018

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, on board a Border Force vessel following a small boat incident in the Channel. PA
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The number of migrants crossing the Channel and arriving in the UK reached a record of 1,295 on Monday, the latest government figures show.

The new number is the highest daily total since current records began in 2018.

Ministry of Defence data showed that 27 boats made the journey, which suggests an average of about 48 people travelling in each boat.

The previous highest daily number was 1,185, recorded on November 11, 2021.

The weather and the effective interception of boats at sea have been suggested as some of the reasons behind the high numbers of crossings.

More than 22,600 people have arrived in the UK after navigating busy shipping lanes from France in small boats such as dinghies so far this year, official figures show.

At the same point in 2021, the cumulative total was a little under 12,500.

Overall, 28,526 people made the crossing last year.

So far in August, 6,271 people have been recorded making the crossing, higher than any monthly total for the year so far.

To date, the highest monthly total for crossings on record is November 2021, at 6,971.

Migrant crossings on the English Channel surge amid heatwave — in pictures

Crossings continued on Tuesday amid breezy conditions in the Channel, with more than 100 people estimated to have arrived.

About 80 people, including several young children, were seen being rescued by the Border Force cutters, Hurricane and Defender, before being brought ashore in Dover, Kent, during the afternoon.

Scores of other people are thought to have also made the crossing earlier in the day.

Lucy Moreton, from the ISU union that represents Border Force officers, said the weather was the short-term reason behind the high numbers of crossings.

“It has been flat calm yesterday and is still fairly calm today,” she told the PA news agency.

“However, autumn is approaching and although crossings do not stop, they do become less frequent as the wave height increases.”

Ms Moreton said it was “possible” the preceding three-day hiatus from crossings, thought to be down to unsuitable weather conditions at the weekend, could be behind the surge in numbers on Monday.

Afghan migrant documents dangerous journey across Channel — video

A government source told The Times that smugglers may be trying to clear a “backlog” of people who had been waiting to make the journey.

But Ms Moreton said the crossing had also become a “relatively safe and effective route of illegal migration into the UK”.

“It is far more certain that trying to hide in a lorry,” she said.

“Because the sea response is so effective, there has been minimal loss of life; it isn’t seen as a dangerous thing to do.

“The prospect of being sent to Rwanda is not a deterrent at all; if anything, it is encouraging crossings as smugglers encourage migrants to travel now before the policy comes in.”

It is four months since Home Secretary Priti Patel unveiled plans to send migrants to Rwanda in a bid to curb Channel crossings.

Since then, 17,402 people have arrived in the UK after making the journey.

On April 14, Ms Patel signed what she described as a “world-first” agreement with Rwanda under which the East African nation will receive migrants deemed by the UK to have arrived “illegally” and therefore inadmissible under new immigration rules.

But the first deportation flight, due to take off on June 14, was grounded amid legal challenges.

Several asylum seekers, the Public and Commercial Services union and charities Care4Calais, Detention Action and Asylum Aid are challenging the legality of the Home Office policy, with the next court hearings due in September and October.

UK announces plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda — video

Chief executive of the Refugee Council Enver Solomon said it was clear the Rwanda plan was “doing absolutely nothing to stop people feeling forced to cross the Channel” because it fails to address the reasons behind the journeys.

“The simple truth is that people including children fleeing war and persecution will continue to make these perilous journeys, whether by boat or other means, if the government refuses to provide safe routes for them,” said Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director.

A government spokesman said preparations to put the Rwanda policy into practice were continuing.

“The rise in dangerous Channel crossings is unacceptable,” the spokesman said. “Not only are they an overt abuse of our immigration laws but they risk the lives of vulnerable people who are being exploited by ruthless criminal gangs.”

Speaking to broadcasters before a Conservative Party leadership hustings in Birmingham, Rishi Sunak said: “I will do whatever it takes to make the Rwanda plan work because we must have control of our borders and as prime minister, that is what I will deliver.”

Updated: August 23, 2022, 9:44 PM
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