Migrants crossing English Channel top 75,000 in past four years

A total of 75,628 have made the journey since 2018, government figures show

Police officers and Royal National Lifeboat Institution crew with migrants rescued in the English Channel, at Dungeness in Kent on September 22.  EPA
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More than 75,000 migrants have arrived in the UK after crossing the English Channel since current records began four years ago, despite a raft of measures being drawn up in hopes of deterring people from making the physically dangerous journey.

UK government data shows that 75,628 have made the journey since 2018 when just a few hundred made the trek across one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

The undersea Channel Tunnel route into the UK from France has been a target for migrants for almost as long as it has existed but the Channel route, often in unseaworthy vessels, is a more recent issue.

On Thursday, the government's Rwanda policy — one of the measures aimed at dissuading people from attempting the crossing — was being challenged in the High Court. Charlotte Kilroy KC, representing charity Asylum Aid, said it was “inherently unlawful and unfair”.

Official Home Office figures show that between January 2018 and June 2022, 51,881 migrants were recorded as arriving in the UK. Since then, an additional 23,747 have been detected, according to provisional Ministry of Defence (MoD) data.

In 2018, 299 people were recorded making the journey. The next year, 1,843 crossings were recorded, with 8,466 in 2020 and 28,561 in 2021. The provisional total for 2022 is 36,459.

The MoD said 856 migrants arrived in 19 boats on Wednesday, as Channel crossings continued for a fifth day in a row.

Children wrapped in blankets were pictured being carried to safety by lifeboat crews at Dungeness beach in Kent.

“The crisis in the Channel, driven by global migration and organised crime, is causing an unprecedented strain on our asylum system,” a government representative said.

“Despite the lies they have been sold by the people smugglers, migrants who travel through safe countries to illegally enter the UK will not be allowed to start a new life here.

“But ultimately nobody should put their lives at risk by taking dangerous and illegal journeys to the UK. We will go further and faster to tackle those gaming the system, using every tool at our disposal to deter illegal migration, disrupt the business model of people smugglers and relocate to Rwanda those with no right to be in the UK.”

Increased naval patrols, asking France to step up land operations and the Rwanda deportation policy are among the measures the government has tried to reduce the number of people attempting the trip.

The Home Office has been criticised by a watchdog for being too slow in processing the cases of migrants being held behind bars.

The “prolonged detention” of foreign detainees in jail under immigration powers because of the department’s “inefficiencies” is “inexcusable”, said Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor.

A review of conditions for immigration detainees found many were in prison for “long periods with little or no progress in their cases being made by the Home Office”.

Updated: October 13, 2022, 1:59 PM