More than 100,000 people have now crossed the Channel in small boats since records began


More than 100,000 people have now crossed the Channel in small boats since records began

The number of people who have crossed the English Channel in small boats in the past five years has now passed 100,000.

The latest Home Office figures show 755 migrants were detected in the Channel on Thursday, the highest daily figure so far this year.

As of Tuesday this week, government figures showed that 99,960 people had made the perilous journey from France to the UK since 2018.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) was spotted bringing “dozens” of people to the shore on Thursday, the PA news agency reported, meaning the 100,000 threshold was likely to have been crossed.

The figures show a huge year-on-year surge, with just 299 small boat arrivals in 2018 compared with 28,526 in 2021 and 45,755 in 2022.

However, the total number of small boat arrivals so far this year is around 15% below the equivalent number at this point last year.

More than 18,600 people had made the crossing by 10 August 2022, compared with 15,826 detected so far in 2023.

Bibby Stockholm fiasco shows how far Rishi Sunak has to go to deliver on boats promise

More than 100,000 people have now crossed the Channel in small boats since records began

The most recent figures will come as a blow to the government which has used this week to try to make a series of tough announcements on illegal migration.

Rishi Sunak has made stopping the small boat crossings one of his five key priorities for his government, but his plans for bringing down illegal immigration have been mired in difficulty and delay.

This week only 15 people were moved on to the Bibby Stockholm barge after legal challenges prevented 20 others from being transferred to the vessel.

The accommodation, off the coast of Dorset, is ultimately intended to house 500 single men – although that is less than 1% of the people waiting for their claims to be heard.

As well as barges, the government wants to use tents and military bases as cheaper forms of accommodation than hotels, which the Home Office says are costing taxpayers £6m a day.

But one military site, RAF Scampton, has also reportedly been delayed until October after there were setbacks in conducting surveys on the 14 buildings designated for migrant accommodation.

More than 100,000 people have now crossed the Channel in small boats since records began

The government is also relying on its £140m scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as a means to curb the number of small boat crossings, but no flight has yet taken off due to the policy being held up in the courts.

The row over illegal migration reached a head when deputy Tory chairman, Lee Anderson admitted the government was failing on immigration – after saying that migrants who did not like barges should “f*** off back to France”.

His use of explicit language has been backed by Downing Street and several senior Tories, who said he was expressing the frustration of the British public.

Labour accused the government of ramping up the divisive rhetoric to distract from failures on immigration, with shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper branding the remarks “clearly wrong”.

Responding to the figures today, she said: “Small boat crossings have increased more than twentyfold over the last four years on the Conservatives’ watch, with more than 100,000 people now having made the dangerous journey across the Channel.

“The criminal gangs who profit from undermining our border security and putting lives at risk have continued to run rings around this government, with their profits soaring from £1m a few years ago to over £200m today, while convictions have collapsed.

“After years of empty pledges and broken promises, the Tories’ asylum chaos is just getting worse and worse.”

However, cabinet ministers have defended the government’s immigration strategy as they made a series of announcements aimed at the problem, including a crackdown on immigration lawyers helping migrants “exploit” the system and a new partnership with Turkey to disrupt people-smuggling gangs.

Central to the prime minister’s “stop the boats” pledge is the controversial Illegal Migration Act, which was passed last month after the government saw off multiple challenges in the Lords.

It means that anyone who enters the UK through unauthorised means will be banned from claiming asylum by giving the government powers of deportation.

Officials are still working on when the legislation will come into force. Questions remain about whether it will comply with international law and where people will be sent if their home countries are not safe and returns agreements such as Rwanda are not in place.

A Home Office spokesperson said on Thursday: “The unacceptable number of people risking their lives by making these dangerous crossings is placing an unprecedented strain on our asylum system.

“Our priority is to stop the boats, and our Small Boats Operational Command is working alongside our French partners and other agencies to disrupt the people smugglers.

“The government is going even further through our Illegal Migration Act which will mean that people arriving in the UK illegally are detained and promptly removed to their country of origin or a safe third country.”


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