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Migrants crossing English Channel hit new record

August 23, 2022

The British Defense Ministry has said nearly 1,300 people were detected crossing from France in small boats in a day. Nearly 23,000 people have made the crossing this year alone.

Migrants, picked up at sea attempting to cross the English Channel, are helped ashore from an Royal National Lifeboat Institution's (RNLI) lifeboat
The UK Defense Ministry has noted a substantial increase in the amount of people crossing the English ChannelImage: Ben Stansall/AFP

British authorities have recorded a new daily record of migrants crossing from France to the United Kingdom. According to the UK Defense Ministry some 1,295 people were detected on Monday, toppling the previous 24-hour record of 1,185 on November 11, 2021.

"The rise in dangerous Channel crossings is unacceptable," Reuters news agency cited a government spokesperson as saying. "Not only are they an overt abuse of our immigration laws but they risk the lives of vulnerable people, who are being exploited by ruthless criminal gangs."

According to the Defense Ministry, during the course of this year there have been 22,670 crossings. At the same point last year, there had been 12,500 people intercepted while making the journey.

France: The plight of refugees in Calais

UK migrant challenge

The British government is at odds with how to handle the issue. This has led to frayed relations with France, whom London accuses of not doing enough to stop crossings.

The UK and Rwanda made headlines on April 14 when they announced that migrants arriving in the UK irregularly would be sent some 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles) away to Rwanda. There, Rwandan authorities would be in charge of processing their asylum claims, and if successful, they would be allowed to stay in the African country. The move has been widely criticized by human rights organizations.

The first flight to Kigali with around 130 asylum-seekers was due to lift off in June, but it was grounded due to legal challenges.

According to the British government, the idea would deter individuals from attempting risky crossings of the English Channel and will put human-smuggling organizations out of business.

The government has also said that the measures are necessary due to the costs involved in processing asylum claims and also accommodating those being processed. Human rights groups have strongly rejected both of these claims.

A crossings with potentially deadly consequences

The English Channel is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. The currents on the water are strong, which makes the seemingly short voyage rather dangerous.

Last November, 27 migrants were found dead in the dangerous stretch of water in what's considered to be the worst-ever disaster involving migrants in the English Channel.

In 2019, 39 migrants from Vietnam died inside a refrigerated truck while crossing from Belgium to the UK via ferry.

kb/jcg (Reuters, AFP)