Cross-Channel migrants top 40,000: UK

More than 40,000 migrants have crossed the Channel to Britain so far this year, in a new record, the UK government said Sunday as it targets a new deal with France to fight people smuggling.

The provisional total for this year stood at 40,885, most of them Albanians, Iranians and Afghans -- well in excess of last year's 28,561, the Ministry of Defence said.

On Saturday, some 972 people were detected making the perilous crossing in 22 boats, it said.

The figures have been rising for years. Some 299 were detected making the crossing in 2018; 1,843 in 2019; and 8,466 in 2020, according to the UK.

The numbers have continued to surge despite various UK initiatives including a plan to send the migrants to Rwanda, which has been blocked in the courts.

Last week, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said a new plan agreed with France was in the works, after his first face-to-face meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.

In talks Friday, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna and British counterpart James Cleverly "stressed the urgency of tackling all forms of illegal migration including small boats crossings and addressing their root causes", according to a joint statement.

The rising numbers have caused a logjam in asylum claims and increased accommodation costs estimated by the UK government at £6.8 million ($7.8 million) a day, straining local services and fuelling public anger.

jit/yad