About 40,000 migrants forecast to cross Channel in blow to Sunak 'stop the boats' pledge

The Border Force figures are the latest setback after the PM vowed to cut immigration

Migrants are escorted ashore from a UK Border Force vessel in Dover, south-east England, on June 15. AFP
Powered by automated translation

The number of migrants crossing the Channel is set to reach 40,000 despite Rishi Sunak’s pledge to stop them, it was reported.

According to predictions by the UK’s Border Force, under a worst-case scenario a record 55,000 migrants could even undertake the journey, delivering a blow to the Prime Minister’s vow to “stop the boats”.

Since entering No 10 Downing Street last October, Mr Sunak has come under intense pressure from MPs, councillors and campaigners in his own Conservative Party to stamp out illegal immigration.

Mr Sunak has made tackling migrant Channel crossings one of his five key pledges and new legislation to deal with the issue, the Illegal Migration Bill, is making its way through parliament.

While he claimed in last month that his plan to stop small-boat Channel crossings is “starting to work”, new figures from the UK’s Border Force show he appears to still have a long way to go.

The Border Force has three scenarios. The medium-case scenario, which has been shown to the most accurate, predicts the total number of crossings for this year will be 40,000, slightly down from 45,755 last year, The Times reports.

But while worst-case scenario has been downgraded from 80,000 to 55,000, that figure would still represent a record number of crossings.

Figures show that record 3,824 migrants crossed the Channel in June, about a fifth higher than the 3,140 that arrived in the same month last year.

The figures come after the Illegal Migration Bill suffered a string of defeats during its passage through the House of Lords and Mr Sunak's plan to deport migrants to Rwanda was dealt a blow by an appeal court ruling.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: “We remain committed to stopping the boats and to do that we need to make clear that if you come here illegally you will be removed to a safe country.

“We have to break the cycle to deter people from making these dangerous journeys, being exploited by gangs.

“That's what the bill is designed to do. It was voted through by the Commons and we remain committed to defending it robustly.”

So far this year 11,434 migrants have crossed in small flimsy boats. This figure is down by 10 per cent, although July, August and September were the busiest months for crossings last year.

The Border Force is predicting a surge in the coming weeks, based on figures for migrants coming to Italy across the Mediterranean, according to The Times.

The number crossing has tripled to 60,000 so far this year, with the Italian government predicting as many as 400,000 could arrive in the whole of 2023.

It is feared that the Mediterranean crossings could fuel a summer surge in Channel small boats as many travel north after arriving in Europe.

Mr Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni vowed to work together on tackling migration as they hailed the “very strong” relations between their two countries during her visit to London in April.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has now called for an “international response” to stem the flow of migrants to countries including the UK and Italy.

He told Italy’s La Repubblica paper the two nations were “working together on issues around illegal migration, for example, which has a huge impact on Italy as a Mediterranean country really very much in the front line, as well as the UK where we're seeing real challenges”.

A Home Office representative said: “Our priority is to stop the boats, and our Small Boats Operational Command is working alongside our French partners and other agencies to successfully disrupt the people smugglers.

“The government has gone further by introducing legislation which will ensure that those people arriving in the UK illegally are detained and promptly removed to their country of origin or a safe third country.”

Updated: July 05, 2023, 11:49 AM