More than 100,000 migrants have crossed the Channel in small boats since records began five years ago

11 August 2023, 11:00 | Updated: 11 August 2023, 11:52

More than 100,000 migrants have crossed to the UK over the Channel since 2018
More than 100,000 migrants have crossed to the UK over the Channel since 2018. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

More than 100,000 people have crossed the Channel in small boats since 2018 - the year records began.

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The milestone was passed after 755 people were detected crossing on Thursday, the highest daily number so far this year.

Lifeboats had to rescue 17 migrants who went overboard, while Border Force reportedly had one of its cutter boats break down and a £400,000 drone used to spot crossings crashed into the sea.

It comes despite the government's promise to stop the small boat crossings, with its plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda on hold as it houses migrants in barges and ex-military sites.

The controversial Illegal Migration Act will ban people from claiming UK asylum if they arrive in unauthorised way, which ministers believe will stop the crossings.

But the Supreme Court is yet to decide on whether the Rwanda plan is lawful.

More than 100,000 people have made the crossing in five years
More than 100,000 people have made the crossing in five years. Picture: Alamy

But despite calls from some Tories to leave the European Convention on Human Rights if it gets in the way of government plans to deal with the crossings, Treasury minister John Glen said the government did not intend to withdraw.

"I believe in the plan that we've got in place. It hasn't finished the legal process yet," he told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast.

"This is a Europe-wide problem. We've had a 30% increase in illegal immigration across Europe, but we're working with Turkey, new arrangement with them last week, with France, with Albania.

Read more: Major lifeboat response after migrants spotted floating in the English Channel

"The arrangements with France have led to 33,000 fewer crossings - also tougher fines for employers and landlords."

He added: "I believe in plan A and we will see that come to fruition in the autumn."

Rishi Sunak has been told by Conservative MPs to revive past ideas to use push back tactics to turn migrants back to Europe, after the Greek navy used the method.

Under Priti Patel, the Home Office considered using jet skis to force inflatable craft carrying migrants back to France.

Greece has used it to push boats back towards Turkey.

The plans were dropped ahead of a High Court challenge against it in 2021.

"The fact that the Greek authorities appear to be achieving success with pushbacks means it should be something we should study closely," Tom Hunt, the Conservative MP for Ipswich, said.

Some Tories want to resurrect ideas to push back migrants
Some Tories want to resurrect ideas to push back migrants. Picture: Alamy

"The reality is we may well need a plan B deterrent and this could well be it. I hope the government is urgently looking at Greece to draw lessons and see what might be possible here because more likely than not, we're likely to need other plans with or without Rwanda."

Read more: 'Why not treat them as human beings?': Caller defends Diane Abbott's controversial migrant tweet

The Tory MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, Jonathan Gullis, said: "Priti Patel's Nationality and Borders Act meant that we were able to introduce pushbacks to be able to take place, and I now hope the Home Office will enact these powers, while awaiting Supreme Court hearing on Rwanda to ensure that we deter people from making this unnecessary journey across the English Channel."

In total, 15,826 people are recorded as having crossed this year, with 45,000 coming over last year and 28,000 the year prior.

There were 1,800 in 2019 and the year after.

It was feared 60,000 could make the journey across all of 2023. Back in 2018, just 299 people were detected.