English Channel crossings pass 10,000 for year as new daily record set

Campaigners accuse government of ‘failing to tackle root causes’ behind rise in small boat arrivals

Chiara Giordano,May Bulman
Thursday 05 August 2021 20:33
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<p>More than 10,000 people have now made the life-threatening journey across the English Channel this year</p>

More than 10,000 people have now made the life-threatening journey across the English Channel this year

More than 10,000 people have now made the life-threatening journey across the English Channel in small boats this year after a new daily record for crossings was set.

At least 482 people succeeded in crossing the Dover Strait on Wednesday on board 21 boats – the highest number yet on a single day.

Campaigners accused ministers of failing to tackle the root causes of the rise in crossings, which have resumed in recent days following a period of bad weather, and have this year already eclipsed the total from 2020.

Data compiled by PA news agency shows the tally for this year now stands at more than 10,200 people, despite the dangers involved in the journey.

Wednesday’s numbers – confirmed by the Home Office on Thursday morning – surpass the previous daily high of 430 set on 19 July 2021.

Despite this, the UK continues to see far fewer boat arrivals and asylum claims than many of its European counterparts.

At least 50,989 people have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean by land and sea so far this year, according to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

More than 1,000 people are estimated to be dead or missing, according to the same data.

It comes as home secretary Priti Patel plans to reduce small boat arrivals by criminalising asylum seekers who reach Britain via unauthorised routes – which accounts for around 60 per cent of those seeking sanctuary in the UK.

As part of her new immigration “overhaul”, Ms Patel will also seek to deny permanent protection to these individuals and instead routinely assess them for removal.

Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive of Refugee Action, said: “It’s shameful that 10,000 people have had to risk their lives to reach sanctuary here because the government refuses to open up more routes to safety.

“Ministers must stop wasting time and taxpayers’ money on ridiculous schemes such as fake websites and Facebook pages and address the root cause of Channel crossings.”

Steve Valdez-Symonds, refugee and migrant rights director at Amnesty International UK, accused UK ministers of “stoking hostility” towards vulnerable people, adding that many make the dangerous crossings because there are “simply no safe alternatives open to them”.

“Instead of more fences, more border policing and more ‘deterrence’ measures, the government should be providing safe routes and procedures for people to reach the UK and exercise their right to seek asylum,” he said.

“Ministers often condemn ‘people smugglers’, but they themselves are driving people into the hands of smugglers by making it virtually impossible for people seeking asylum to get here by any other means.”

Ms Patel and her department have repeatedly vowed to make the Channel route “unviable”, but crossings have continued to rise.

Dan O’Mahoney, clandestine Channel threat commander for the Home Office, said: “These dangerous small boat crossings, facilitated by criminal gangs, are putting lives at risk.”

He said the numbers were “unacceptable” and claimed the government’s controversial new plan for immigration was the “only credible long term plan to fix the broken asylum system”.

Last month, Ms Patel announced an agreement to more than double the number of police patrolling French beaches, with the government to give France £54m to facilitate the plans.

This week, she met members of the Greek government and visited a controversial new “closed” asylum centre on Samos Island, prompting concern that she plans to implement similar structures in the UK.

The two-day official visit saw the home secretary meet ministers in Athens before going out on patrol with the Hellenic coastguard off the island of Samos to learn more about the methods used to prevent small boat crossings.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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