Migrant crossings in English Channel resume in their hundreds

Migrants disembark from a Border Force vessel at Dover Harbour, after being rescued while crossing the English Channel, in Dover, Britain, May 3, 2022. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Some 254 migrants crossed the channel on 1 May. (Reuters)

Downing Street has refused to say when it expects its policy of flying asylum seekers to Rwanda to have an impact on Channel crossings after hundreds of people arrived in small boats over the past few days.

Some 254 migrants and seven boats were detected in the Channel on 1 May after an 11-day stint of no recorded crossings, and a further 293 people crossed on 2 May.

At least 6,947 people have reached the UK since the start of the year.

Read more: Charities say Rwanda plan not deterring ‘desperate’ migrants crossing Channel

Ministers have said the policy of flying certain migrants arriving via "unlawful" routes to Rwanda will deter smuggling gangs from trafficking asylum seekers across the Channel by breaking their "business model".

Last month, a Tory MP claimed the policy was working after a period of no recorded attempted crossings.

"No illegal migrant crossing for a week and no income for people traffickers, freeing up civil servants to work on Ukrainian evacuees," Tory MP Andrew Bridgen tweeted on 28 April.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel addresses a joint news conference with Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta, after signing the partnership agreement in Kigali, Rwanda, April 14, 2022. REUTERS/Jean Bizimana
Priti Patel has insisted that the Rwanda scheme will break the business model of people smuggling gangs but the government has not provided evidence for this claim. (Reuters)

"We should offer the illegal migrants already here the option of returning to France or going to Rwanda."

However, it appears that the weather was the key determining factor as to why the crossings temporarily paused.

Number 10 on Tuesday said that it is "too early to tell" if the home secretary's Rwanda policy has had an impact on migrant crossings, and refused to state when the government will know whether it has been effective.

Read more: How the UK's Rwanda plan mirrors immigration policies in Australia, Israel and Denmark

"I don't think there's a fixed date," the spokesperson said.

"Obviously, there are a number of variables we need to deal with - not least some of the legal challenges."

The Number 10 spokesperson was also unable to say how many migrants that have arrived since the scheme was announced will be deported to Rwanda.

Migrant crossings have resumed after a period of poor weather. (Ministry of Defence)

The scheme, announced in April, means that asylum seekers arriving via what the government sees as "unlawful" routes since 1 January 2022 may be deported to Rwanda – where their asylum claim will be processed under Rwandan law.

If their asylum claim is successful, they will be offered refuge in Rwanda.

The plans have been heavily criticised since their announcement, with 150 British organisations supporting refugees condemning the move.

In a significant intervention, the plans were described as "ungodly" by the Archbishop of Canterbury in his Easter sermon.

Read more: Priti Patel asked for details of Rwanda policy ahead of possible legal challenge

"The principle must stand the judgment of God and it cannot," said Archbishop Justin Welby.

"It cannot carry the weight of resurrection justice, of life conquering death. It cannot carry the weight of the resurrection that was first to the least valued, for it privileges the rich and strong.

"And it cannot carry the weight of our national responsibility as a country formed by Christian values, because subcontracting out our responsibilities, even to a country that seeks to do well like Rwanda, is the opposite of the nature of God who himself took responsibility for our failures."

Rwanda is around 4,000 miles away from the UK. (PA)

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper also slammed the plans.

"Home secretary statement on Rwanda is desperate, shameful attempt to distract from PM law breaking. This policy is unworkable, unethical, at extortionate cost And it will make people trafficking & smuggling worse," Cooper tweeted in April.

"Costs will rocket. The £120m paid doesn’t cover a single person, those costs aren’t agreed yet, & she can’t say how much it will be.

"The Home Office has basically paid £120m for a press release. Where’s that money coming from? Australian offshoring cost £1.7m per person."

Read more: Theresa May questions 'legality' and 'efficacy' of Rwanda policy

However, shortly after announcing the scheme, Patel and Rwandan foreign minister, Vincent Biruta, penned a joint article in The Times defending the policy.

“We are taking bold and innovative steps and it’s surprising that those institutions that criticise the plans fail to offer their own solutions," said the home secretary.

She added: "We can provide legal, safe, orderly and controlled ways for people to better their lives, flee oppression, persecution or conflict and enjoy new opportunities.”

Watch: More migrants arriving in the UK have been spotted despite controversial Rwanda migration policy