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Channel crossings to the UK exceed 40,000 for the year

The number of people reaching the UK in small boats from France after navigating busy shipping lanes has increased steadily in recent years (Gareth Fuller/PA)
The number of people reaching the UK in small boats from France after navigating busy shipping lanes has increased steadily in recent years (Gareth Fuller/PA)

More than 40,000 migrants have crossed the English Channel to the UK so far this year, Government figures have shown.

Some 972 people were detected on Saturday in 22 boats, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said, taking the provisional total for the year to 40,885.

In 2021, there were 28,561 recorded.

The arrivals on Saturday were the first so far in November, with the most recent crossings previously made on October 31 when 46 people were detected on one boat.

Yvette Cooper, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said: “Dangerous boat crossings are putting lives at risk. These figures show the Government has completely failed to prevent the criminal smuggler and trafficking gangs hugely expanding in the Channel over the last three years.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

“The Conservatives need to urgently adopt Labour’s plan for a major new unit of the National Crime Agency to crack down on the criminal gangs.

“Ministers also need to sort out their own failing decision-making systems so they clear the backlogs that border staff have warned are acting as a recruiting tool for those smuggler gangs.

“It is unacceptable that just 4% of last year’s small boat cases have even been processed.

“The Conservatives’ rhetoric and gimmicks haven’t worked. We need serious, hard work to make sure the Home Office gets a grip.”

The milestone comes as immigration minister Robert Jenrick has insisted a move towards more basic accommodation is necessary to remove a “pull factor” for those making their way to the UK in small boats.

He claimed the country’s “generosity” towards refugees is being “abused” by people “skipping the queue”, putting a strain on the immigration system.

In an article for The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Jenrick said a “chronic shortage of acceptable accommodation” for “record numbers” of migrants has forced the Government to procure expensive and often unsuitable hotels, burdening the taxpayer with an “unacceptable” cost.

Robert Jenrick
Robert Jenrick has said migrants should be offered more basic accommodation (PA)

“Human decency has to be accompanied by hard-headed common sense: illegal immigrants are not entitled to luxury hotels,” he said.

“Conditions in the UK are almost always better than in neighbouring countries, which helps explain why the UK is a destination of choice for economic migrants on the continent ‘asylum shopping’.

“‘Hotel Britain’ must end and be replaced with simple, functional accommodation that does not create an additional pull factor.”

Alternatives to hotel rooms could include disused student accommodation, defunct holiday parks and even budget cruise ships, according to the newspaper.

August 22 saw the highest daily total on record, with 1,295 people crossing in 27 boats.

It is nearly seven months since the then home secretary Priti Patel announced plans to send migrants to Rwanda to try to deter people from crossing the Channel.

Since then, a total 35,617 people have arrived in the UK after making the journey, according to MoD figures.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
More than 40,000 people have made the crossing to the UK so far this year (Gareth Fuller/PA)

On April 14, Ms Patel signed what she described as a “world-first” agreement with Rwanda, under which the east African country will receive migrants deemed by the UK to have arrived “illegally”, and are therefore inadmissible under new immigration rules.

However, the first deportation flight, due to take off on June 14, was grounded amid legal challenges.

The legality of the policy has since been contested in the courts, with ministers and campaigners awaiting a ruling from High Court judges on the case.

The number of people reaching the UK in small boats from France after navigating busy shipping lanes has increased steadily in recent years.

Some 299 were detected in 2018, followed by 1,843 in 2019 and 8,466 in 2020, official figures show.

Despite the growing numbers, the small boat arrivals are a fraction of the number of people 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.

The MoD said its data is taken from “live operational systems” and is subject to change, “including reduction”.