Migrants rescued from flotilla of boats crossing English Channel

The total number of people reaching the UK via the English Channel route is 32,321

Migrants brought ashore by lifeboat at Dover Docks in southern England. EPA
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More than 650 people crossed the English Channel in a flotilla of small boats on Friday, according to UK government figures.

Fifteen boats were intercepted, the British Ministry of Defence said, while 65 people were rescued by French authorities.

Asylum seekers crossing the Channel is a big political issue, as more try to make the trip, often in unseaworthy boats, across one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, for the chance of refuge in the UK.

As the numbers rose from a few hundred to tens of thousands a year, the issue has led to controversy for a British Conservative government that wants to be strict on immigration.

It is the 12th time on record the daily figure has exceeded 600 and takes the yearly total to 32,321.

This week, the annual total hit more than 30,000.

Tents have been erected at Dover to accommodate migrants during processing — with new arrivals sometimes appearing to be overflowing from existing facilities.

On Friday, French authorities also launched a rescue operation after a boat got into difficulty off the coast of Gravelines in northern France.

A representative from the Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea said the maritime military rescued 65 people from the wreckage.

“The castaways were disembarked at the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer, where they were taken care of by the border police and the departmental fire and rescue service,” the agency said.

“This maritime sector is one of the busiest areas in the world, with more than 400 merchant ships passing through it each day, and the weather are often difficult.

“It is therefore a particularly dangerous sector, especially at a time when the water temperature will decrease.”

The Channel crossings were one of the reasons for a UK government plan to deport some migrants to Rwanda in Central Africa. The policy was meant to deter migrants and the trafficking gangs from attempting the crossing.

In the five months since the Rwanda policy was announced, 27,053 people have arrived in the UK by the Channel route.

In 2021, about 28,300 people crossed the Channel to the UK aboard small boats in 2021, more than triple the number recorded in the previous year.

That record number — an increase from 2020’s 8,466 — came despite millions of pounds promised to French authorities to tackle the issue.

In 2018, 299 people were detected making the journey, and in 2019, there were 1,843 crossings.

In 2018, there were fewer than 10 people in each boat, while in 2019 and 2020 the average rose to the high teens.

In 2021, the average occupancy increased further, reaching 30 by August.

The average number of people in each boat was 46 in August 2022.

Updated: September 24, 2022, 4:07 PM