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The Channel migrant crisis – a timeline

The Government has set out its plans to tackle the issue of migrants crossing the Channel in small boats.

This is how events leading up to the announcement in the Commons unfolded.

– 2018

December 28: Home Secretary Sajid Javid breaks off his holiday and declares a “major incident” in the Channel following an upsurge in small boat crossings, with at least 221 migrants attempting the voyage since the start of November.

December 31: Mr Javid bows to pressure from Tory MPs and announces two more Border Force cutters are to be stationed in the Channel, having previously warned they would act as a “magnet” for migrants.

Sajid Javid
Sajid Javid announced a ‘major incident’ in the Channel (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

– 2019

January 24: Mr Javid and his French counterpart Christophe Castaner announce a joint action plan aimed at halving the number of successful crossings over the summer and reducing it to an “infrequent phenomenon” by spring 2020.

It includes over £6 million for new security equipment such as CCTV and night goggles, increased beach patrols and intelligence sharing, and a commitment to conduct return operations as quickly as possible.

August 9: A 31-year-old Iranian woman, Mitra Mehrad, becomes the first migrant known to have drowned while attempting the crossing after falling from a dinghy.

August 23: Prime Minister Boris Johnson warns migrants “we will send you back” after almost 100 attempt the crossing in the space of 24 hours.

December 31: 1,892 migrants are reported to have successfully crossed the Channel in the course of 2019, while 1,235 were intercepted by the French authorities.

Migrants picked up in the Channel by the Border Force arrive in Dover
Migrants picked up in the Channel by the Border Force arrive in Dover (Gareth Fuller/PA)

– 2020

July 12: Home Secretary Priti Patel and French interior minister Gerald Darmian announce  a new joint intelligence cell to counter the people smuggling gangs as 180 migrants make the crossing – the highest number to date on a single day.

September 26: The Home Office announced plans to acquire two jet skis to try to stop the migrant boats after a new record 416 migrants make the crossing in one day.

October 27: A family of five, including three young children, drown after their boat capsizes in the Channel.

November 28: Ms Patel and Mr Darmian announce a new joint operational plan with more French police patrols and the deployment of cutting-edge surveillance and detection technology.

December 31: At least 8,417 people arrived in small boats in the course of 2020, quadruple the number the previous year.

Priti Patel and Rwandan foreign minister Vincent Biruta, sign an agreement for asylum seekers to be processed in the east African country
Priti Patel and Rwandan foreign minister Vincent Biruta sign an agreement for asylum seekers to be processed in the east African country (Flora Thompson/PA)

– 2021

March 24: Ms Patel says she will “consider all options” to offshore processing of asylum claims to third countries as she sets out plans to overhaul the immigration system.

November 11: 1,185 migrants take advantage of the unseasonably mild weather to make the Channel crossing – a new record for a single day.

November 15: Ms Patel and Mr Darmian issue a joint statement vowing to prevent “100% of crossings”, making the Channel route “unviable” for migrants.

November 24: 27 people, including a pregnant woman and three children, are drowned after their dinghy capsizes in the deadliest incident in the Channel since Mr Javid first declared a major emergency.

Ms Patel is disinvited from a meeting of European interior ministers following a diplomatic row between Mr Johnson and President Emmanuel Macron over the response to the tragedy.

December 31: The total number of arrivals for the year is 28,526.

A Boeing 767 aircraft at MoD Boscombe Down, near Salisbury, which is believed to be the plane set to take asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda
The first deportation flight to Rwanda is halted just minutes before take-off (Andrew Matthews/PA)

– 2022

April 14: Mr Johnson announces plan to deport migrants arriving in small boats to Rwanda for their claims to be processed, saying it would act as a “very considerable deterrent”.

June 15: The first deportation flight to Rwanda is cancelled just minutes before take-off following a ruling by a judge at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

August 23: The Ministry of Defence said 1,295 migrants made the crossing in 27 boats, another new record which remains the highest figure for a single day.

August 25: Ms Patel announces an agreement with the Albanian government to curb the numbers of migrants from that country amid concerns they account for 60% of all those arriving in the UK.

November 14: New Home Secretary Suella Braverman signs a new agreement with Mr Darmian allowing British officers to join French beach patrols.

November 23: Mrs Braverman admits the Government has “failed to control our borders” but tells MPs they are determined to “fix” the problem, following criticism of overcrowding at the Manston processing centre in Kent.

December 14: Four people die while 39 others are rescued after their dinghy capsized in the Channel.

December 19: The High Court rules the Government’s Rwanda policy is legal but orders the cases of the first eight deportees to be reconsidered.

December 31: 45,755 migrants made the Channel crossing over the course of the year, according to Government figures.

– 2023

January 4: Rishi Sunak announces legislation to tackle the migrant crisis is one of five key priorities for his premiership.

March 7: Ms Braverman tells MPs the Illegal Migration Bill will impose a legal duty to remove those arriving in the country illegally, barring them from claiming asylum in the UK.