Channel migrant rescues – key questions answered

The Government has stepped up patrols in the English Channel following a rise in attempts to reach the UK in recent weeks.

– How many people have attempted the crossing?

In 2018, 539 migrants attempted to travel to the UK on small boats. Of these, 227 (42%) were intercepted by French authorities before they made it to the UK, according to Home Office figures. The statistics show 434 (81%) of the 539 made their attempts in the last three months of the year.

Border Force agents by a empty dinghy on the beach at Lydd-on-Sea
Border Force agents by a empty dinghy on the beach at Lydd-on-Sea

– Where are those who are rescued at sea taken?

Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, but generally people rescued in UK waters are brought to Britain while those picked up on the French side are taken to France.

– What happens once they arrive in the UK?

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said on Wednesday that “in almost every case” those who make the journey go on to claim asylum in the UK. Asylum applicants arriving in these circumstances are given a medical assessment before being transferred to immigration officials for an initial interview. They are then provided with accommodation while their application proceeds through the system.


– Can asylum seekers be transferred to another European country?

An EU rule known as the Dublin Regulation is used to determine which member state is responsible for examining asylum claims. Other “Dublin states” can request that the UK take responsibility for asylum claimants, and vice versa. In 2017, there were 461 transfers into the UK and 314 transfers out under the Dublin Regulation.

– How is the Channel patrolled?

Currently one Border Force cutter, HMC Vigilant, is deployed in the Channel, alongside two smaller coastal patrol vessels. The number of cutters will rise to three after two were recalled from abroad to join the operation.

– What do the cutters do?

They can rescue several migrant boats at the same time, with as many as 200 people picked up in a single mission. Other functions include searching vessels for restricted goods, carrying out strategic patrols and providing support to other agencies. Each of Border Force’s five cutters has two crews that rotate on a fortnightly basis. The cutters work within a maximum range of 2,300 nautical miles, and are expected to be able to respond within 30 minutes of a call.