More than 20,000 migrants have already crossed the Channel in small boats this year

30 August 2023, 12:10 | Updated: 30 August 2023, 13:06

More than 20,000 migrants have crossed the Channel
More than 20,000 migrants have crossed the Channel. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

More than 20,000 asylum-seekers have crossed the English Channel on small boats this year.

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Some 300 people made the journey in five boats on Tuesday, suggesting an average of around 60 people per boat.

It means the provisional total for 2023 to date is 20,101, according to Home Office data.

The figures show a drop compared to last year, when more than 25,000 people had already made the journey.

Pictures of some of Tuesday's arrivals showed a dinghy packed with men and boys, some without lifejackets, perched on the sides while their legs dangled in the water.

It comes just seven months after Rishi Sunak made 'stop the boats' one of his top priorities as Prime Minister.

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A group of migrants arriving in Dover
A group of migrants arriving in Dover. Picture: Alamy

Mr Sunak said he wants people to "have confidence" in his plan to curb Channel crossings, with the decrease in migrants making the journey showing his plan to "stop the boats" was "working".

But Labour’s Shadow Immigration Minister Stephen Kinnock blasted the Tories for still allowing criminal smuggling gangs “to rule the roost on Britain’s borders”.

"Rather than stopping the boats, Rishi Sunak has fundamentally failed to get a grip, and crossings are rocketing on his watch," he said.

"The Conservatives have allowed criminal gangs to rule the roost on Britain’s borders.

"It’s time for a different approach. The Prime Minister should drop all his headline-chasing gimmicks and instead back Labour’s plan to stop the dangerous Channel crossings by going after the criminal gangs, by securing a returns deal with Europe, and by clearing the asylum backlog which is costing the taxpayer £6 million a day."

Migrants seen crossing the Channel on a small boat
Migrants seen crossing the Channel on a small boat. Picture: Alamy

It comes after Mr Sunak played down the impact weather had on the number of people attempting the crossing this year.

While June 2023 was the warmest on record, July and August have been much more unsettled, with a sequence of low pressure bringing wind and rain.

Meanwhile, summer 2022 was the fourth warmest on record for the UK and the warmest on record for England, with heatwaves in each of the three months.

A Home Office spokesman said: "The unacceptable number of people risking their lives by making these dangerous crossings is placing an unprecedented strain on our asylum system.

"Our priority is to stop the boats, and our Small Boats Operational Command is working alongside our French partners and other agencies to disrupt the people smugglers.

"The Government is going even further through our Illegal Migration Act which will mean that people arriving in the UK illegally are detained and promptly removed to their country of origin or a safe third country."

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