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Channel migrants now top 30,000 a year

migrants - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
migrants - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Channel migrant crossings have broken records for seven successive months as the annual total passed 30,000 for the first time on Wednesday.

More than 500 men, women and children are estimated to have reached the UK in small boats on Wednesday, taking the total for September past 5,300.

That makes this September already the third highest month on record for crossings, surpassed only by this August, when 8,704 reached the UK - more than the whole of 2020 - and last November when 6,878 migrants made the perilous 21-mile journey across the Channel.

It means that every month since March has seen a record monthly total. Only February - when poor weather and rough seas curtailed migrants - was lower than previous years with just 144 migrants reaching the UK.

It means that this year crossings are on course to be double the 28,526 migrants who reached the UK in small boats last year, and six times the 8,704 arrivals in 2020.

The surge since the spring has been fuelled by increasing numbers of Albanians using small boats to cross the Channel.

Albanians now account for up to 60 per cent of crossings, with some 9,000 expected to have reached the UK by the end of this month. Some 2,000 are said to be massed in camps or bed and breakfast accommodation in Dunkirk seeking to cross the Channel.

‘Deeply concerning’

The numbers being packed into larger dinghies by the people smugglers have also increased from an average of 28 in 2021 to 44 this year.

Last week, 38 people had to be rescued from the Channel when their boat broke in two and sank seven miles off the south coast. A paramedic was airlifted by a coastguard helicopter to a life raft to resuscitate one of the migrants who had stopped breathing after falling into the sea.

Government officials said it was “remarkable” that there has not been a repeat of the tragedy last November in which 27 men, women and children drowned when a dinghy capsized.

Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover, warned of an increased risk of a tragedy as winter closes in. “The numbers of arrivals are deeply concerning,” she said.

“It’s vital to see the small boat crisis brought to an end as the seas will become colder and rougher as we head into autumn and winter. Action is needed now to avoid further tragic loss of life on the English Channel.”

Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, has pledged tackling the Channel migrant crisis will be one of her “clear priorities”.

“This is not just a manifesto pledge, people are dying,” she told staff, as she promised to take a “firmer line” against people traffickers.

Liz Truss has pledged to expand the plan to send migrants to claim asylum in Rwanda to other countries, take a tougher line with France to prevent more crossing attempts and keep the Navy in charge of the Channel operation with Border Force.

The Rwanda flights - seen as a key deterrent to crossings - have however been put on hold by a judicial review over their legality brought by charities Care4Calais and Detention Action and the PCS union representing Border Force staff.

Young children wrapped in blankets were among the estimated 500-plus migrants brought ashore on Wednesday. People wearing winter coats, some carrying children, climbed down a ladder from a packed RNLI lifeboat and onto the beach at Dungeness, Kent. They then boarded buses and were taken to be processed. Others were brought into Dover.

Before Wednesday’s 500 arrived, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) updated its total for the year to 29,848 migrants in 760 boats.