Migrant Channel crossings surpass 2020 record with five months of year to go

A group of people thought to be migrants crossing from France come ashore from the local lifeboat at Dungeness in Kent, after being picked-up following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Tuesday July 20, 2021.
A lifeboat brings people ashore in Dungeness, Kent, on Tuesday. (PA)

The number of migrant crossings over the English Channel this year has already surpassed the total for the entirety of 2020.

With more than five months until the end of the year, at least 8,452 people have made the dangerous journey across the Channel on small boats.

In 2020, 8,417 people crossed the Dover Strait. This was a record in itself.

It comes after at least 287 migrants succeeded in reaching the UK on Tuesday. Most of these people landed in Dungeness and Dover, in Kent.

A boat used by a group of people thought to be migrants crossing from France is towed from the beach at Dungeness, Kent, following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Tuesday July 20, 2021.
A boat which was used to cross the Channel is towed from the beach in Dungeness, Kent, on Tuesday. (PA)

That followed Monday’s single-day record, when 430 people reached the UK.

Thousands of migrants have continued to make the trip across the Channel, often packed aboard unseaworthy dinghies, putting their lives at risk on one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

The Detention Action charity, which acts to defend the rights of people held in UK immigration centres, said the government has now “lost all credibility in managing a safe and fair asylum system”.

Dan O’Mahoney, clandestine Channel threat commander for the Home Office, said the government is “continuing to take steps to tackle the unacceptable problem”.

Watch: At least 430 migrants crossed the English Channel to the UK on Monday

On Tuesday, UK home secretary Priti Patel and French interior minister Gerald Darmanin announced an agreement – the second one in a year – to more than double the number of police patrolling French beaches to prevent illegal migration and stop small boats departing.

As part of the deal, the UK will give France £54m.

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

Appearing before the House of Commons home affairs committee on Wednesday, Patel was asked why the UK was giving more money to France after it also sent about £27m at the end of last year.

Conservative MP Tim Loughton said the French government is making "a mockery” of arrangements.

“Since that time," he said, "you now have a record number of beats which have come across the channel, and the number of interceptions by the French has actually fallen."

Patel said it was an "evolving situation": “Our counterparts in France, our operational partners as well as our operational partners in the UK which involves our intelligence partners, have seen complete change in modus operandi in terms of the crossings.”

She said that instead of the majority of migrants coming from Calais, there was now a “widespread dispersal” of launches along the entire French coastline.

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On Wednesday morning, meanwhile, a toddler cried while brought ashore in Dover, part of a group of people who arrived at the port on a Border Force patrol boat.

Immigration officials were seen helping a number of people onto the gangway and leading them up towards a white processing tent.

As the group, believed to have crossed the English Channel from France, walked up the gangway they passed a number of dinghies from previous crossings floating in the water below.

Watch: Wednesday's politics briefing