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Channel crossings: more than 28,300 migrants crossed the English Channel in 2021 marking a record year

The number of migrants crossing into the UK from the English Channel tripled last year

In 2021 more than 28,300 migrants crossed the Channel in small boats marking a record year.

Around 20,000 more people crossed the dangerous sea between France and England last year compared to 2020.

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This is despite the French authorities’ promise of tackling the issue.

But arrivals will continue and more people will drown in the narrow sea between France and Britain if the Government pursues its “dangerous and callous policy”, ministers have been warned.

How many migrants arrived in the UK last year?

In November, the number of arrivals in the UK peaked to at least 6,869 people, despite the dropping temperatures.

Between 10 and 16 November more than 3,100 people crossed the Channel - the most in any seven-day stretch in the crisis.

November also saw the record for the amount of migrants crossing in a single day.

On 11 November 1,185 people reached British shores aboard 33 boats.

The previous record for the most arrivals on a single day was set in September 2020 where 416 had arrived.

Overall, at least 28,395 people reached the UK aboard small boats in 2021.

All of the figures for small boat crossings are based on Home Office data - obtained and analysed by the PA news agency.

How does the figure compare to Europe?

Despite the UK’s increasing numbers of migrants arriving on small boats, this number is a fraction of how many are arriving into Europe.

In 2021 at least 120,441 people arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean by land and sea, according to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

At least 1,839 people are estimated to be dead or missing, according to the same data.

What is the migrant crisis?

Over the last 12 months smugglers have been packing more and more people aboard larger dinghies which has led to many upsetting circumstances.

Gangs have continued to use the Dover Strait with their deadly trade, charging thousands of pounds for a berth in flimsy inflatable boats.

These dinghies leaving French shores have noticeably increased in size over last year.

Some carry as many as 50 people - PA data showed an average of around 28 people travelling abroad each small boat arriving in the UK in 2021, up from just over 13 in 2020.

Despite international efforts to crack down on the smugglers, the trade still continues and the number of migrants losing their lives in the Channel has increased.

On 24 November at least 27 people died as their boat sank and the dinghy was likened to a blow-up pool by French interior minister Gerald Darmanin.

What has the Government said?

The Government is “reforming” its approach to asylum through its New Plan for Immigration, the Home Office minister, Tom Pursglove MP, said.

Mr Pursglove said: “Seeking asylum for protection should not involve people asylum shopping country to country, or risking their lives by lining the pockets of criminal gangs to cross the Channel.

“The public have been crying out for reform for two decades and that’s what this Government is delivering through our New Plan for Immigration.”

Mr Pursglove disclosed the Nationality and Borders Bill which “will make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK illegally and introduce life sentences for those who facilitate illegal entry into the country.”

He added: “It will also strengthen the powers of Border Force to stop and redirect vessels, while introducing new powers to remove asylum seekers to have their claims processed outside the UK.

“MPs have already voted to reform this broken and abusive system and the sooner the House of Lords approves the Borders Bill, the sooner these reforms can be delivered.”

What has been said about the Government’s actions?

Clare Moseley, founder of charity Care4Calais which supports refugees living in northern France, told PA: “The Government tells us that people should travel by legal means but, if this were truly possible, why would so many be risking their lives in flimsy boats?

“If the Government were serious about stopping people smugglers, it would create a safe way for people to claim asylum and put people smugglers out of business once and for all.”

Ms Moseley added: “They are some of the most vulnerable people in the world, having lost family members in bloody conflicts, suffered horrific torture and inhumane persecution.”

Enver Solomon, the chief executive of Refugee Council, also criticises the Government’s approach.

Mr. Solomon said: “This Government must change its approach and instead of seeking to punish or push away people seeking safety because of the type of journey they have made to the UK, they must create and commit to safe routes.

“As a country, we can save lives and empower people, who have already been through so much, to give back to the communities that welcome them.”

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