First small boat Channel crossing of 2023 takes place

The first small boat Channel crossing of 2023 has taken place.

Some 44 people, who travelled on one boat, arrived in the UK on Monday, according to the latest Ministry of Defence (MoD) figures.

The group, largely made up of adults wearing winter coats and scarves, was brought to shore in Dover, Kent, after making the dangerous journey across the world’s busiest shipping lane.

A new deal with France, allowing UK Border Force officers to patrol French beaches alongside local patrols, came into effect last month.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
A group of people are brought in to Dover on board a Border Force vessel (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The first joint patrols are believed to have taken place just before Christmas after months of talks between UK and French officials.

The co-operative effort aims to grant UK officers greater real-time intelligence of people-smuggling activity, tactics and migrant movements.

However, the UK officers embedded in the French patrols are “observers” only, meaning they cannot make arrests.

“Our work with the French is vital to tackling the unacceptable rise in dangerous Channel crossings and we are committed to building on our close co-operation to date,” a Home Office spokesman said.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
The move followed a small boat incident in the Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“The new agreement will significantly increase the number of French gendarmes patrolling the beaches in northern France and ensure UK and French officers are working hand in hand to stop people smugglers.”

The MoD said a record 45,756 migrants crossed the Channel to the UK in 2022.

The last crossings of 2022 took place on Christmas Day, when 90 people made the trip from France in two boats.

The provisional annual total for 2022 is a record and 60% up from 28,526 in 2021.

The number of migrants crossing the Channel has steadily increased since 299 people were detected in 2018. There were 1,843 crossings recorded in 2019 and 8,466 in 2020, according to the Home Office.

Last August was the highest month on record for crossings, with 8,631 people arriving in the UK. August 22 saw a record 1,295 migrants crossing in a single day on 27 boats.

The MoD said its data is taken from “live operational systems” and subject to change, “including reduction”.