Charles Hymas, The Telegraph, August 10, 2023
The number of migrants crossing the English Channel on small boats has hit 100,000 since they first reached British shores five years ago.
About 600 migrants travelling in at least 11 boats are believed to have arrived on Thursday as people smugglers took advantage of clear skies and calmer seas after four days of rain and high winds scuppered crossings.
It takes the total since the first migrants crossed the Channel in 2018 to nearly 100,600. Until yesterday 99,960 migrants had made the journey with 60,000 of them arriving in the past 18 months.
The crossings bring the total so far this year to more than 15,000, compared with a record 45,755 last year. The numbers this year have been down by about 14 per cent on last year, which has been partly attributed to the bad weather earlier in the year and in July – a key month.
The landmark total coincides with the Government’s “small boats week” designed to focus attention on efforts by Rishi Sunak and his ministers to stop the crossings.
The Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge in Dorset finally opened this week following a series of delays and a range of policy announcements were made, including increased fines for firms and landlords with illegal migrants, a deal with Turkey to combat people smugglers and a crackdown on “rogue” human rights lawyers.
The prospect of quitting the European Court of Human Rights was also raised by ministers.
Bad weather had prevented any Channel crossings since Saturday, when just 77 migrants in two boats reached the UK following 262 in five boats on Friday.
Two Border Force vessels – Typhoon and Hurricane – were deployed to rescue migrants but problems forced a third vessel, Volunteer, a catamaran, back to Ramsgate, placing extra pressure on RNLI lifeboats sent from Dover, Ramsgate and Dungeness.
A witness said there appeared to be more than 40 people taken ashore on board two lifeboats, which had attended a dinghy out in the Channel.
It is understood a French navy vessel had to enter UK waters to escort one of the boats to within three miles of the UK coast because of the surge and stretched resources.
To add to the difficulties, a Border Force drone monitoring migrant crossings is believed to have crashed into the sea.
Thursday could be this year’s busiest day, surpassing the 686 migrants who reached the UK on July 7. June saw the most this year, with 3,823 migrants crossing before dropping to 3,299 in July.
Last year saw a record 45,755 people make the journey – 60 per cent higher than 2021 when 28,526 migrants arrived in the UK. That compared with 8,466 in 2020, 1,843 in 2019 and 299 in 2018.
Central to the Government’s efforts to stop the boats crossing the Channel is the Illegal Migration Act, which gives ministers powers to detain anyone who arrives illegally and deport them to a safe third country such as Rwanda or their home nation.
Deportation flights to Rwanda have, however, been grounded since last June and are dependent on a Supreme Court ruling on their legality in the autumn.
Officials are still working on when the legislation will come into force, and it is anticipated elements of the new laws may be implemented in stages over the coming months.