Number of migrants crossing Channel believed to have hit 10,000 for year so far

Groups of migrants, including several children, were seen being brought ashore in Dover, Kent, on Friday.

Flora Thompson
Friday 24 May 2024 18:26 BST
More than 10,000 migrants are thought to have arrived in the UK so far this year after crossing the Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA)
More than 10,000 migrants are thought to have arrived in the UK so far this year after crossing the Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)

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More than 10,000 migrants are thought to have arrived in the UK so far this year after crossing the Channel.

Pictures showed groups of migrants, including several children, being brought ashore in Dover, Kent, on Friday amid warm, sunny and clear weather conditions at sea.

As of Thursday, 9,882 people had made the journey from France this year, according to provisional Home Office figures.

This is up 35% on the number recorded this time last year (7,297) and 6% higher than the same point in 2022 (9,326), according to PA news agency analysis of the data.

The number of migrants arriving in the UK after crossing the Channel has already reached a new record high for the first five months of a calendar year.

Witnesses told PA one lifeboat arrived carrying around 40 people, with another 40 on board a Border Force boat.

A second Border Force vessel is believed to have been carrying at least 50 people.

(The figures are a) stark reminder that the Government’s flagrant attack on the rights to refugees is not only unlawful and immoral, it is ineffective even on its own terms

Amnesty International

This suggests at least around 130 migrants arrived in the UK on Friday, indicating the number crossing the Channel for 2024 to date has hit 10,000, and more were seen making the journey as the day continued.

The number of arrivals recorded will be confirmed in Government figures set to be published on Saturday.

Immigration has become a key campaign battleground ahead of the election and could cause a headache for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who promised to put an end to crossings altogether, with his “stop the boats” catchphrase, and has pointed to the Rwanda plan to achieve this, describing it as an “indispensable deterrent”.

Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said if Labour was elected on July 4 the party would “take the action required to tackle this chaos”.

Amnesty International warned the figures were a “stark reminder that the Government’s flagrant attack on the rights to refugees is not only unlawful and immoral, it is ineffective even on its own terms” as it repeated demands for the Prime Minister to make “safe routes available” to tackle crossings.

Concern over the number of migrants crossing the Channel and the backlog of asylum seekers waiting for their claims to be considered while they are typically housed in hotels, costing the taxpayer millions of pounds a day, has dominated the immigration debate.

Mr Sunak made stopping the boats one of his five key priorities last year and Home Secretary James Cleverly later vowed to meet the pledge by the end of this year.

Earlier this week, Mr Cleverly insisted the Government remains “determined” to stop the boats despite crossings continuing to take place.

People smugglers have changed the way they operate, he argued last week when asked why the number of migrants arriving in the UK was still rising.

Mr Cleverly also sought to lay blame at Labour’s door, accusing the opposition party of delaying tactics over the plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Labour’s vow to “take things like Rwanda off the table” if the party gains power at the General Election was “a signal to the people-smuggling gangs to continue doing what they’re doing”, Mr Cleverly warned.

He has also said that a “concerted effort” to derail the latest laws designed to put the plan into action through another wave of legal challenges will not prevent planes taking off.

He has always maintained the Rwanda plan was not a silver bullet for quelling illegal migration levels, arguing that a range of measures are needed to make a difference.

But taxpayers may question whether the millions of pounds being spent on the Rwanda deal – without any deportation flights getting off the ground – represents value for money. Voters may also consider how multimillion-pound agreements with France to prevent crossings are working and whether they are worth the money.

Mr Sunak has admitted that flights would not take off before the General Election.

On Thursday, he stressed “preparation work” was already in motion and the plan would deter Channel crossings once in action but conceded deportations would only take place “after the election”, adding: “If I’m elected, we will get the flights off.”

The comments prompted Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to claim Mr Sunak never believed in the plan and had called an early election to avoid testing the policy.

Campaigners and migrant charities also called for asylum seekers due to be sent to Rwanda to be freed immediately from detention.

The PA news agency understands the Home Office has already released on bail some migrants who had been detained for Rwanda flights but the department refused to confirm numbers or how many more people could be released.

The Prime Minister’s admission raises the possibility that courts may now look more favourably on immigration bail applications, in light of rules which state migrants can only be detained if there is a realistic prospect of their removal from the UK within a reasonable time scale.

This means they could be released on bail if no action is being taken to deport them.

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