English Channel crossings continue as numbers approach 2020 record

·3-min read

People continued to risk making the perilous journey across the English Channel to the UK on Tuesday, with numbers for 2021 now approaching the entire figure for 2020.

More than 8,000 migrants have succeeded in making the dangerous trip so far this year, according to data analysis by the PA news agency.

Young children, some too small to walk, were seen being helped by lifeboat volunteers as they reached a beach in Kent on Tuesday.

Men, women and children, many of whom have fled violence, torture and persecution, regularly set off from France packed on board unseaworthy dinghies, often after paying people-smugglers.

On Monday, at least 430 people, including women and young children, made the journey, a new record for a single day.

High numbers of migrants continue to risk their lives in their bid to cross the 21-mile Dover Strait, despite Home Secretary Priti Patel’s vow to make the route “unviable”.

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.

With more than 8,000 people having crossed to the UK on board small boats so far this year, 2021 is nearing the total annual figure of 8,417 reached in 2020, PA analysis shows.

Numbers of crossings have shot up in recent years, with last year’s total more than quadrupling the number of arrivals in 2019.

Despite this, the UK continues to see far fewer boat arrivals and asylum claims than many of its European counterparts.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
A dinghy used by a group of people thought to be migrants crossing from France is towed from the beach at Dungeness, Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)

At least 44,230 people have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean by land and sea so far this year, according to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Also, despite the sharp rise in small boats arrivals on the south coast, asylum applications in the UK fell in 2020 to 29,456.

This was significantly lower than the 93,475 asylum applications made in France and the 121,955 made in Germany.

In October, a Kurdish-Iranian family, including small children, died when their migrant boat sank off the French coast.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
A group of people thought to be migrants crossing from France are escortedfrom the beach at Dungeness, Kent, by officials (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Speaking on Times Radio, immigration minister Chris Philp said Monday was the “worst day ever” for crossings and it is “vital” that action is taken.

He said Ms Patel is close to reaching an “enhanced agreement” with French authorities to boost co-operation and increase police patrols on French beaches.

Mr Philp also pledged that the controversial Nationality and Borders Bill currently going through Parliament “closes some loopholes” and will reform the asylum system.

However a coalition of campaigners called Together With Refugees has said the Bill is inhumane and unworkable.

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Priti Patel and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin announced an agreement on Tuesday to more than double the number of police patrolling French beaches for the second time in a year to prevent illegal migration and stop small boats from departing French beaches.

Ms Patel said that British people have “had enough of illegal migration and the exploitation of migrants by criminal gangs”.

Under the newly-agreed package, French officers will patrol wider areas of coastline across the northern coast between Boulogne and Dunkirk and patrols will be expanded further north-west around Dieppe.

There is also to be improved coverage via surveillance technology of the coast of France and investment in infrastructure is to increase to try and bolster border security at key border crossing points along the Channel coast.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting