Figures compiled by the Home Office and verified by PA media show that the number of people who crossed the English Channel in small boats last year was treble the number for 2020.
More than 28,300 people made the treacherous journey in 2021. In 2020, a total of 8,417 people crossed the Channel in small boats. Despite the poor weather and falling temperatures, arrivals peaked in November with around 6,900 people reaching the UK.
In November, 27 people drowned in the English Channel trying to reach the UK. November also saw a record number of people reaching UK shores as 1,185 people arrived.
Home Office Minister, Tom Pursglove said the Government was toughening its approach by “reforming” asylum rules. The Government hopes its new Nationality and Borders Bill will introduce life sentences for people-smugglers and make it a criminal offence to enter the UK illegally.
A Home Office impact assessment for the bill, published in September, said evidence supporting the effectiveness of the Government’s plans was “limited.”
“There is a risk that increased security and deterrence could encourage these cohorts to attempt riskier means of entering the UK,” it added.
In a statement, the Minister said, the Government was “making the tough decisions to end the overt exploitation of our laws.
“The sooner the House of Lords approves the Nationality and Borders Bill, the sooner these reforms will be delivered.”
Tim Naor Hilton, Chief Executive at Refugee Action, said that the UK Government’s policy will lead to more deaths in the Dover Strait.
He said: “People will continue to cross the Channel in flimsy boats, and smugglers will continue to profit, unless ministers open up more routes for refugees to claim asylum here.
“[In November] we saw the deadly result of their strategy of keeping people out rather than keeping people safe, when at least 27 people died near our coast.
“And yet the government wants to legalise this dangerous and callous policy in its anti-refugee bill, which will only lead to more people drowning. It must wake up and scrap this bill now.”
Bridget Chapman, of Kent Refugee Action Network, said the increase in Channel crossings was “exactly what you would expect to happen when you make other routes unviable. The Government can pass as many anti-refugee bills as it likes – it won’t stop people coming and it doesn’t absolve us of our duty to take our fair share of displaced people.
“The chaotic approach that has been pursued so far has claimed dozens of lives and cost a huge amount of public money. In short it has been a disaster on every level. It’s time for the Government to radically change its approach and offer safe routes to those that need them.”
Image Credit: RNLI/Harrison Bates