Record number of Channel migrants reach UK on single day in February

Channel migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, on a Border Force vessel on Sunday
Channel migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, on a Border Force vessel on Sunday - Gareth Fuller/PA

A record 290 migrants crossed the Channel in small boats on Sunday – the highest recorded number for a single day in February.

Home Office figures, published on Monday, showed that the 290 people had crossed in five boats, an average of 58 migrants per dinghy, bringing the total for the year to 2,006.

It beats the previous highest number for a single day in February – 218, recorded last year – and is the highest number of people making the crossing in a single day for more than a month after 358 people were recorded on Jan 17.

Rishi Sunak made stopping the boats one of his five pledges to the electorate, but has admitted it is “not easy” to fix the problem and said he would not be being straight with the public if he claimed it could be solved overnight.

The overall total so far this year is 32 per cent lower than the number of crossings recorded by this time last year – 2,953 – but 49 per cent higher than the total at this stage in 2022, when it was 1,482.

Some 29,437 migrants arrived in the UK after making the crossing last year, down 36 per cent on a record 45,774 arrivals in 2022.

The latest arrivals reached Dover in rough conditions on Sunday, with rain, mist and strong winds along the Kent coast. The first group was brought into the harbour on a Border Force vessel shortly before 8am.

The arrivals could be seen removing their orange lifejackets as they walked along the former jetfoil terminal to be taken for processing.

A second, mostly male, group reached Dover shortly after 12pm, and the final arrivals were intercepted en route to the UK and brought into the port on Hurricane, a Border Force catamaran, at around 5.30pm.

It came as Mr Sunak denied he was ignoring concerns being raised by locals about the use of RAF Scampton, near Lincoln, as accommodation for asylum seekers.

“I’m not ignoring them,” the Prime Minister told BBC Radio Lincolnshire as he was challenged on Monday. “We do need to make sure that we house people in appropriate accommodation, and the best way to resolve this issue long term is to stop people coming in the first place.

“So anyone who cares about this should be backing us to get the Rwanda Bill through Parliament so we can get a deterrent up and running.

“I’m confident that we really will be able to stop the boats and that will mean that we won’t have this pressure in all our local areas to find places to house illegal migrants.”

Mr Sunak insisted he understood “people’s frustration” over the use of the site, telling the radio station: “I wish we were not having to do any of this, whether it’s RAF Scampton or other sites across the country, or indeed in hotels and communities across our country that now are being used to house illegal migrants.

“I don’t think any of that is right, and it costs a fortune.”

He added that use of the former airbase would be on a “temporary basis”, although the Government could extend its use as asylum housing for a further three years.