Channel migrant crossings hit new daily high this year - as Rishi Sunak braces for fresh battle over Rwanda bill

A total of 534 people were detected crossing the English Chanel on Sunday - the highest number in a single day so far this year, according to Home Office figures.

The cumulative number of arrivals by small boats in 2024 now stands at a provisional total of 6,265.

This is 28% higher than the total at the equivalent point last year and 7% higher than the total at this stage in 2022.

Some 10 boats were detected on Sunday, which suggests an average of around 53 people per boat.

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The figures come as Rishi Sunak braces for a fresh round of parliamentary wrangling over his bill to save his stalled Rwanda deportation scheme.

The controversial policy is seen as central to the prime minister's pledge to "stop the boats" - something he has staked his premiership on.

On Monday, MPs in the House of Commons will begin considering amendments to the Safety of Rwanda Bill made by peers in the House of Lords, who want extra legal safeguards including a provision to ensure "due regard" for domestic and international law.

The bill is aimed at reviving the plan to send some asylum seekers on a one-way flight to Kigali after the Supreme Court ruled it unlawful in November.

It seeks to declare in UK law that the east African nation is safe.

Mr Sunak is under pressure to get the scheme going to give the Tories a fighting chance at the general election, expected later this year.

Yesterday marked two years to the day the policy was announced by then prime minister Boris Johnson, but no migrants have been sent to Rwanda despite at least £240m being spent on it already.

The government will seek to strip out the changes made by peers, who will mull the bill again on Tuesday.

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If it doesn't pass the House of Lords they will send it back to the Commons with more amendments, prolonging the process known as parliamentary ping-pong where legislation is batted between the two chambers.

The government has not given a specific date for when the first flights could take off, only saying it would happen "in spring".

On Sunday, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins told Sky News flights would take off "within weeks", despite being unable to say if an airline had been found to charter the flights.

According to The Times, the government has also approached countries including Costa Rica, Armenia, the Ivory Coast and Botswana in a bid to replicate the scheme elsewhere.

The UK is in talks with the nations after Mr Sunak gave the Home Office and Foreign Office a deadline of last autumn to secure two additional deals, the newspaper reported.

A government spokesperson said Britain is "continuing to work with a range of international partners to tackle global illegal migration challenges".

They said: "Our focus right now is passing the Safety of Rwanda Bill, which builds on the Illegal Migration Act, and putting plans in place to get flights off the ground as soon as possible."