Number of English channel migrant crossings so far this year exceeds 2020 total

20 July 2021, 05:41 | Updated: 21 July 2021, 00:02

By Asher McShane

The number of people who have made the dangerous journey across the English Channel in small boats this year has passed the total for all of 2020 - with more than five months left of 2021.

At least 287 migrants succeeded in reaching the UK on Tuesday, bringing the total for the year to at least 8,452, according to Home Office data obtained and analysed by the PA news agency.

This eclipses the figure for the whole of 2020, when 8,417 people crossed the Dover Strait aboard small boats.

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It comes after a record 430 migrants made the journey across the English Channel to the UK on Monday, despite Home Secretary Priti Patel's vow to make the Channel crossings "unviable".

In one landing from a small boat in Kent, dozens of people, including women and young children, were seen walking ashore in front of shocked beach-goers.

The children, some too small to walk, were spotted being helped by lifeboat volunteers as they reached the beach on Tuesday.

Monday's figure passes the previous daily high of 416 set in September 2020.

A group of people come ashore at Dungeness in Kent
A group of people come ashore at Dungeness in Kent. Picture: Alamy
A migrant celebrates after arriving on a small boat at Dungeness in Kent, right more migrants arrive today
A migrant celebrates after arriving on a small boat at Dungeness in Kent, right more migrants arrive today. Picture: PA

Also on Monday, plans for sweeping reforms of the asylum system, dubbed the anti-refugee Bill by critics and campaigners, were debated again in Parliament.

In Dungeness in Kent, around 50 people were seen landing on a beach after crossing aboard in a single dinghy.

Some raised their hands in celebration as they stood on the beach, while others sat down on the shingle shoreline amid 24C sunshine.

The large dinghy is believed to have left northern France or Belgium earlier on Monday before crossing the dangerous 21-mile Dover Strait.

The vessel had been watched by the RNLI as it got closer and closer to the coast before eventually landing on the beach at around 1pm.

Among the arrivals were women and children, some too young to walk, and some people had to be supported as they walked on to the beach.

In Parliament on Monday, Theresa May sounded warnings over the prospect of the UK sending asylum seekers to Australia-style offshore processing centres.

The former prime minister said she considered the idea when home secretary but rejected the option due to "practical concerns".

Migrants sit on the beach after arriving on a small boat at Dungeness in Kent
Migrants sit on the beach after arriving on a small boat at Dungeness in Kent. Picture: Alamy
A group of people believed to be migrants being led up a beach in Kent
A group of people believed to be migrants being led up a beach in Kent. Picture: Alamy

Her remarks came as MPs considered the Nationality and Borders Bill, which includes clauses to allow the UK to be able to send asylum seekers to a "safe third country" and to submit claims at a "designated place" determined by the Secretary of State.

More people reached Britain on Tuesday, with multiple beach landings at Dungeness, and others arriving at Dover, further along the coast.

Dramatic pictures show people climbing down from a lifeboat onto the beach, with a woman seen carrying a toddler in her arms as she made her way ashore.

Around 40 people are thought to have been aboard a single boat that arrived at the shore in Dungeness, with dozens of people seen on the beach beneath 24C sun.

Bella Sankey, director of charity Detention Action, said: "The Home Office's anti-refugee Bill is political theatre that doesn't even pretend to deal with the issue or make our system, safe, fair or efficient.

"We need a mechanism allowing refugees arriving at the UK border in France to be given safe passage, and until we have it, all else is noise and distraction."