More than 14,000 migrants cross Channel in small boats this year

More than 14,000 migrants have arrived in UK this year after crossing Channel on small boats, Home Office figures show

  • Figures show nearly 900 people came by small boat on Tuesday and Wednesday

Dozens of migrants have crossed the English Channel this morning, as official figures show 14,000 have made the journey this year alone.

Men, women and children believed to be asylum seekers were brought into the Port of Dove by two Border Force vessels as people smugglers in France took advantage of calm conditions to launch small boats.

Nearly 900 people have made the perilous 21-mile journey across the Dover Straits in the past two days alone on just 18 boats, suggesting an average of around 48 people per vessel. 

According to Government figures, a total of 14,121 people have arrived into Britain this way since the beginning of 2023 – lower than the 15,282 who had done so by this time last year. 

On Tuesday, 574 people made the journey, marking the second highest number of arrivals on a single day this year and more are expected to arrive today with clear skies, moderate wind speeds, and no rainfall forecast for the Channel on Thursday morning.

A group of people thought to be migrants disembark a Border Force vessel in the Port of Dover this morning

Border Force staff speak to people thought to be migrants after they arrive in the Port of Dover today

On Wednesday 297 asylum seekers in six boats were intercepted by Border Force while attempting to cross the Channel.

The first three vessels arrived before daybreak, around 2am. A further three groups of migrants – including a small number of children – were brought to shore in the afternoon, despite choppy conditions at sea.

The French coastguard prevented a further 44 people from crossing the Channel in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The regional operational surveillance and rescue centre (CROSS) in Cap Griz-Nez was made aware of a boat in difficulty off the coast of Dunkirk, north France.

The Rhône metropolitan support vessel was tasked with recovering the 44 stranded people from the water and dropping them off at the port of Calais, where they were handed into the care of the departmental fire and rescue centre and the border police.

While the Government is yet to confirm the official figures for today, at least two small boats are understood to have been intercepted in the Channel.

Border Force catamaran Defender rescued around 40 migrants from a black inflatable dinghy shortly before 8am.

The mostly male group, who were wearing orange lifejackets, were brought into the harbour at Dover, Kent, around an hour later.

A group of people thought to be migrants are driven away from the Port of Dover on a bus after arriving this morning

People wearing lifejackets get off a Border Force vessel in Dover on Thursday morning

A second, similarly sized group, were escorted to shore on Border Force vessel Ranger around 9.30am.

Border Force catamaran Defender is currently patrolling the waters between Dungeness in Kent and Boulogne-Sur-Mer in north France.

The crossings come as the Illegal Migration Bill is poised to become law and just days after the Government hailed its sweeping asylum reforms passing through Parliament. 

The much-criticised flagship legislation, central to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to ‘stop the boats’ crossing the Channel, is expected to be given Royal Assent on Thursday. 

The reforms will prevent people from claiming asylum in the UK if they arrive through unauthorised means. 

READ MORE HERE: How asylum seekers evade capture by using ‘dangerous’ alternative routes across the Channel after crackdown on Calais to Dover passage

The Government also hopes the changes will ensure detained people are promptly removed, either to their home country or a third country such as Rwanda, which is currently the subject of a legal challenge. 

But campaigners have condemned the legislation, arguing that it will not stop Channel crossings, will fail without the Rwanda deal, and fear it could see refugees detained indefinitely. 

Sonya Sceats, chief executive of the charity Freedom from Torture, branded the Bill ‘deeply immoral’, adding: ‘We will not stop fighting for a kinder, fairer UK.’ 

Lubna Shuja, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, warned the legislation was ‘unworkable’, would not solve problems with the asylum backlog, and threatened to ‘undermine the rule of law and access to justice’. 

She said: ‘A growing number of people will be left in limbo as they cannot be removed, and they cannot claim asylum. 

‘The cost to the taxpayer will continue to increase as the individuals left in limbo are housed in various accommodation indefinitely. 

‘There is a severe lack of asylum and immigration solicitors to represent those who are subject to removal orders.’ 

The United Nations previously denounced the Bill, warning that it broke the UK’s obligations under international law. 

Downing Street has defended the legislation, with officials saying the Government is confident it is acting within international law. 

Meanwhile, earlier this week, a barge which will house 500 asylum seekers was met by protesters as it arrived in Dorset’s Portland Port a month behind schedule. 

Two other cruise ships set to house migrants have reportedly been unable to find a berth. 

The Home Office said around 50 asylum seekers would board the Bibby Stockholm from next week, with the numbers rising to its maximum capacity over coming months, despite safety concerns raised by some of the county’s Conservative MPs and locals. 

The Government stood by its decision to use barges to house migrants, insisting it was a cheaper alternative to housing them in hotels. 

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