Migrants reaching UK in English Channel crossings hits 35,000

How such migrants are treated is a political problem for the Conservative government

Another 539 people were detected by the UK authorities on Monday in 13 boats. EPA
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More than 35,000 migrants have crossed the English Channel to arrive in the UK so far this year — a raw statistic representing the number of people the British government has failed to dissuade.

The figure is already a record, and there is no sign yet of sailings being curtailed from the summer peak. With winter looming there is added danger in making the crossing from northern France to southern England in bad weather.

Channel migrants and how they are treated is a political problem for the ruling Conservative government, which has promised to be tough on immigration.

Increased naval patrols, asking France to step up land operations and the Rwanda deportation policy — a controversial move that so far has not properly got off the ground — are among the measures the government has tried to reduce the number of people from attempting the trip.

But the number of migrants, who cross one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world in often unseaworthy boats, has risen from a few hundred to tens of thousands in four years.

Another 539 people were detected on Monday in 13 boats, the Ministry of Defence said, taking the provisional total for the year to 35,233. This is more than the whole of 2021, when 28,561 were recorded.

There have been 2,232 crossings recorded in October so far, an analysis of government figures shows.

This includes 1,065 people making the journey on Sunday, marking the fourth time the daily total had topped 1,000 in seven weeks. Crossings continued on Tuesday amid calm conditions at sea.

In 2018, 299 people were detected making the journey. The next year, 1,843 crossings were recorded, 8,466 in 2020 and 28,561 in 2021.

In 2018 there were fewer than 10 people per boat, while in 2019 and 2020 the average was in the high teens. In 2021 the average increased further, reaching 20 in March and 30 by August. It reached 40 per boat in June this year, then 46 in August.

The latest milestone comes as the government faces another legal challenge to its plan to send migrants to Rwanda.

Charity Asylum Aid's case is due to be heard by High Court judges this week after similar challenges were made last month. Deportation flights are on hold while the legal disputes continue.

The court is expected to give its ruling on all of the cases at the same time, at a later date.

Since former home secretary Priti Patel announced the Rwanda deal in April, 29,965 people have arrived in the UK after making the journey from France.

Despite this, the number of people arriving in the UK in small boats is still a fraction of those going to mainland Europe.

Data from the UN's refugee agency shows at least 120,441 people arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean by land and sea last year.

Updated: October 11, 2022, 1:32 PM
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