616 migrants cross channel on sunday, highest daily total this year
In the highest daily number so far in 2023, more than 600 migrants crossed the English Channel in small, fragile boats on Sunday, days after British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claimed his plan to “stop the boats” was working.
Traffickers used the calm seas, low wind, and weekend heatwave to ferry people across the busy trade route. Twelve boats were detected, suggesting an average of around 51 people per boat. The figures for yesterday bring the provisional total for this year to 8,380.
At the same point last year, the total number of crossings had just passed 10,000.
It’s a blow for Sunak, who stressed last month his implemented measures were starting to show results after a north wind in May and early June brought Channel crossings to a near stop. But yesterday’s arrivals suggest traffickers were more worried about the bad weather instead.
Calm weather is expected to remain until Wednesday. Downing Street reacted to the record arrivals by insisting crossings vary on any given day.
Sunak’s official spokesperson told journalists, the leader in his recent update was talking about a five-month average 20% reduction rather than a snapshot figure.
Channel crossings are continuing because the government has not been able to put in place its full plans, the spokesperson mentioned, adding enhanced work with France means migrants are now likely to be intercepted and stopped.
It comes on the day a cross-party group of MPs found Albanian migrants to the UK are unlikely to be at risk in their own country or require asylum. Of the over 45,000 people who crossed the Channel last year, 12,301 came from Albania and most claimed asylum after arriving.
Apart from weeks of rough seas, experts also suggest much of the recent drop in crossings had resulted from a reduction in Albanian migrants, instead of an overall change.
The ruling Conservative Party’s Illegal Migration Bill, which is going through the Lords, is designed to facilitate the process of refusing entry to illegal migrants. The Home Office predicts around 85,000 could arrive in 2023, almost double from last year.