Number of migrants making perilous journey across English Channel hits record 20,000

3 November 2021, 09:24

More than 20,000 migrants have crossed the English Channel so far this year.
More than 20,000 migrants have crossed the English Channel so far this year. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

The number of migrants who have made the perilous journey across the English Channel so far this year has reached a record 20,000 - more than double the total for the whole of 2020.

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Migrants continue to take advantage of the calmer weather in the UK, making dangerous attempts to cross the Channel every day.

On Tuesday alone, UK authorities rescued or intercepted 456 people who attempted the crossing.

This is on top of 19,756 people who had already reached the UK this year, after navigating busy shipping lanes from France in small boats.

The number is already more than double the total in 2020 - which was 8,417.

Dan O'Mahoney, Clandestine Channel Threat Commander for the Home Office, described the journey as "dangerous, unnecessary and facilitated by violent criminal gangs profiting from misery".

He added: "We are working with the French to stop boats leaving their beaches and crack down on the criminals driving these crossings."

Read more: Border Force calls off search for migrant missing off Essex coast

The French authorities also prevented 343 people from reaching the UK on Tuesday.

It comes a week after several migrants were feared to have been lost at sea on the coast of Essex while attempting the journey.

Last week, Home Secretary Priti Patel described an incident in which as many as three people are thought to be unaccounted as "appalling" and an "absolute tragedy".

Two men - both Somali nationals - were rescued off the Essex coast near Harwich on October 25 and searches for any possible remaining survivors have now been called off.

The soaring number of crossings has prompted Amnesty International UK to call for an overhaul of the nation's asylum system.

Read more: Priti Patel threatens to withhold millions from France over record migrant numbers

Chief executive Sacha Deshmukh said the Government seems "more interested in playing politics with asylum than in fulfilling its responsibilities toward people in need of a place of safety".

"We need to remember that these dangerous crossings are taking place because the Government has provided no safe alternative for people to exercise their right to seek asylum here," she said.

"If Priti Patel is truly concerned with tackling criminal gangs and their exploitation of people, she needs to set up safe asylum routes so people no longer need to depend on smugglers."

"Asylum claims are no higher now than they were two years ago and are much lower than in other European countries," she added.

"But the Government has seized on these highly visible sea crossings to justify draconian new policies criminalising people simply for seeking asylum.

"It's misleading and deeply unhelpful to say France is a 'safe country' when, as ministers should know, many people who are perfectly entitled to seek asylum in Britain are trapped in miserable conditions in camps in northern France."