Number of migrant crossings so far this year more than double figure for 2020

27 September 2021, 19:17 | Updated: 27 September 2021, 19:56

The number of people crossing the English Channel this year has now exceeded double the number for last year
The number of people crossing the English Channel this year has now exceeded double the number for last year. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

The number of migrants that have crossed the English channel in 2021 is now more than double the total for 2020 - with three months of the year still to go.

The milestone was hit on Sunday, when at least 669 migrants succeeded in reaching the UK, taking the total for 2021 so far to 17,085.

A total of 8,417 people crossed the Dover Strait in 2020.

These figures are based on Home Office data obtained and analysed by the PA news agency.

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This comes despite repeated vows from the Government to make such crossings "unviable" and tens of millions of pounds promised to France to help tackle the issue.

Amnesty International UK criticised "inhumane policies like pushbacks and the criminalisation of refugees" and called for urgent action.

Since the start of last year, more than 25,000 people have risked death crossing to the UK aboard dinghies, kayaks and other small boats, PA data shows.

The Home Office's Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, Dan O'Mahoney, said it was "a complicated issue", but the Government was "determined to tackle the unacceptable rise in dangerous Channel crossings".

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On Sunday, a Border Force coastal patrol vessel was seen arriving in Dover full of people as well as a lifeboat with around 40 or 50 people, including families and young children, on board.

Those who were arriving were seen all wearing blue surgical face masks and orange lifejackets.

Later on, a group of people, thought to be migrants, were escorted by police and Border Force officers away from the beach at St Margaret's Bay.

They had landed on the beach in a small boat following a number of arrivals from the Channel.

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By Sunday evening, the Border Force had deployed its Hurricane vessel to bring people into Ramsgate.

Mr O'Mahoney said: "The Government is determined to tackle the unacceptable rise in dangerous Channel crossings using every tool at our disposal, at every stage in the journey.

"Working with police and international partners there have been nearly 300 arrests, 65 convictions related to small boat criminality and our targeted efforts have prevented more than 12,000 migrant attempts.

"But this is a complicated issue requiring changes to our laws. The government's New Plan for Immigration provides the only long term solution to fix the broken system and deliver the change required to tackle criminal gangs and prevent further loss of life."

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Since the beginning of 2019, more than a dozen people have died or gone missing while trying to cross to the UK in small boats.

In October last year, a Kurdish-Iranian family, including small children, died when their migrant boat sank off the French coast.

Last month, a 27-year-old man from Eritrea died after he and four others jumped overboard as their boat started to sink.

"It's been appalling to see how ministers and others have sought to manipulate these highly visible crossings to give the impression of an emergency situation on the Kent coast," said Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK's refugee and migrant rights director.

"The total number of asylum claims being made in the UK is no greater than it was two years ago, but Channel crossings have become part of the Government's cynical politicisation of asylum.

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"Every time the Home Secretary talks about 'people smugglers', she ignores her own failure to open up safe and legal asylum routes.

"The people making these dangerous sea crossings are doing so out of desperation, largely because there are no safe and legal routes open to them.

"We urgently need a new approach to asylum in this country - with inhumane policies like pushbacks and the criminalisation of refugees dropped, and far more done in terms of working with France and others to play a constructive role in assisting people who've fled war and persecution."