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About our English Channel Migrants news

Latest news, comment and analysis on the issue of refugees and migrants attempting to enter the UK illegally by crossing the English Channel.

An increasing number of refugees and migrants have been entering the United Kingdom illegally by crossing the English Channel in the last decades.

Seaborne crossings aboard small boats by would-be refugees and migrants were rare before November 2018. More commonly, they stowed away aboard trains, lorries or ferry boats, a technique that has become more difficult in recent years as British authorities have intensified searches of such vehicles.

Many now arrive in small boats, and may enter the country unnoticed, while others are apprehended on landing or are rescued when their craft founders off shore.

Since November 2018, the number of migrants crossing has grown. The total number of migrants arriving by this route during 2018 was 297. In 2019 and 2020 the numbers grew significantly, and by September 2020 an estimated total of 7,500 had entered Britain by this route.

The crisis has escalated in recent years, with a record number of crossings and deaths in 2021 and 2022. Record numbers of migrants crossed the Channel in small boats in 2022. More than 45,000 people crossed the Channel in small vessels, a 60% increase on the 2021 total, and the highest figure since records began.

According to the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), "there are many myths and inaccuracies peddled about people crossing the Channel to seek safety in the UK".

The JCWI state that there is a "persistent myth" that "those who cross the Channel are not refugees… in reality, people making these crossings include pregnant women, families with children, and children who have absolutely no one with them. No one risks their life in a dangerous journey like this unless they have no other choice".

The majority of people who crossed the Channel in 2021 in small boats were refugees, according to government figures, published by the Refugee Council.

The UK government has announced new plans to stop illegal crossings and deport those who arrive without permission, but these plans have been criticised by human rights groups and some MPs as unlawful and inhumane. The migrants are mostly from countries affected by war, persecution or poverty, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan and Eritrea. Some of them have family members or relatives in the UK, while others hope to find better opportunities and safety there.

The UK government plans to stop Channel crossings include the Illegal Migration Bill, which would give the home secretary the power to detain and remove those who arrive illegally to Rwanda or another 'safe' third country. The bill would also make it harder for migrants to appeal or seek judicial review of their removal, and ban them from returning to the UK or applying for citizenship.

The UK government also plans to boost border security and cooperation with France, including by deploying more patrol boats, drones, radars and cameras to detect and intercept migrant boats. The UK has also pledged to provide more funding and support to France to prevent migrants from leaving its shores.

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