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The Telegraph
The Telegraph
Will Hazell

Almost 46,000 migrants crossed Channel in 2022

Migrants are brought in to Dungeness, Kent - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Migrants are brought in to Dungeness, Kent - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The number of migrants illegally crossing the Channel in small boats has increased 150-fold over the last four years, official figures show.

A record 45,756 people made the perilous journey in 2022, with the final crossing of the year, of 90 people, taking place on Christmas Day.

It comes as Border Force officers joined French beach patrols for the first time to stem the flow of Channel crossings. The first officers were deployed just before Christmas alongside gendarmes working to thwart the departure of migrants from the beaches of northern France.

The provisional final tally of Channel crossings for 2022 represents a 60 per cent increase on the 28,526 who made the journey in 2021.

In 2020 the figure stood at 8,466, and in 2019 it was 1,843. The number of crossings in 2022 was more than 150 times higher than the 299 recorded in 2018.

Last year also saw the highest number of people making the crossing in a single day, when 1,295 arrived on Aug 22, beating the previous high of 1,185 on Nov 11 2021.

The Ministry of Defence – which has taken the lead on the operational response to small boat migration – began publishing daily figures for the number of migrants detected in April. Since then, there have been five days on which the figure has exceeded 1,000.

In December, Rishi Sunak unveiled a series of measures aimed at curbing the crossings and tackling the backlog of asylum claims, including legislation to make it “unambiguously clear that if you enter the UK illegally you should not be able to remain here”.

Responding to Sunday’s figures, Conservative MPs said they underlined the need for “urgent action”.

Sir John Hayes, a former minister, said: “There are few more pressing matters than the defence of our borders. People voted to take back control and at the heart of that is being able to control who enters your nation legally and to prohibit people entering illegally.”

He said “nothing should be ruled out”, including turning back boats in the Channel, adding that action was needed to make sure the UK’s membership of the European Convention on Human Rights did not stymy the Government’s Rwanda deportation scheme and other measures to tackle the crossings.

Sir John said: “People are tired of seeing this abuse of our country. For too long, we’ve been regarded as a soft touch. Now is the time for hard facts.”

Chris Loder, another Tory MP, said the 2022 figure was “appalling” and that he expected the Government to “sort this out”. Mr Loder said MPs on the Right of the party were “quite concerned that this is just going to be a never-ending situation, and that isn’t acceptable to them”.

He added: “As a result, I think Rishi has been delivered the message already that this isn’t just a few MPs having a moan now, this is the majority telling you this level of crossing has to stop, and if it doesn’t stop you’re going to have to take care.”

The number of arrivals per month began to drop towards the end of last year, which could reflect changes in the amount of crossings being attempted as a result of the weather. No crossings were recorded for the last six days of 2022 amid bad conditions.

In December, 1,745 people made the journey – slightly fewer than the 1,770 arrivals recorded in the last month of 2021.

The joint beach patrols follow an agreement signed in Paris by Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, and Gerald Darmanin, her French counterpart, in November. Under the agreement, the UK increased its contribution to the French operations from £54 million to £63 million this year.

In return, France agreed to increase beach patrols by 40 per cent within the next five months, backed by further investment in drones and night vision capabilities.

As part of the deal, Border Force officers have been stationed  in French control rooms to boost “information-sharing, improve understanding of the threat and ensure UK expertise is at the heart of efforts to disrupt crossings and clamp down on people-smugglers”.

The French have stopped more than 30,000 migrant crossings this year – around 40 per cent of the total. Border Force and French officials believe it needs to be raised to 80 to 90 per cent if the people-smugglers’ business model is to be broken.

In January, the Ministry of Defence is set to hand responsibility for small boat crossings back to the Home Office after taking over from the department on April 14.

The move will see the Royal Navy pulled out of the Channel and sub-contractors put in place to help support Border Force officials with intercepting and processing migrants.

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