Around 1,000 people risk death to reach UK in new Channel crossings record

Around 1,000 people reached the UK in a single day after risking their lives in small boats in the English Channel, a new record for the current crisis.

A young girl wrapped in a red jacket was seen being carried ashore in Dover on Thursday, one of hundreds of people brought into the Kent port after being picked up at sea.

Lifeboat crews and Border Force boats were busy well into the evening after spending hours intercepting boats in the Dover Straight throughout the day.

Thursday’s total will surpass the previous single-day record for the current crisis of 853 set earlier this month when figures are finalised.

Meanwhile, in French waters, three people are feared lost at sea after two kayaks were found adrift off the coast of Calais on Thursday morning, authorities in France said.

Over the last few weeks others have also been reported missing during the perilous crossing, and two people have been confirmed to have died.

Border Force vessel Seeker leaves the Port of Dover
Border Force vessel Seeker leaves the Port of Dover in Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Border officials were busy well into Thursday evening in Dover as they worked to process the many arrivals.

Children wrapped in jackets and blankets against the autumn chill, some carried in the arms of adults, were among being helped onto the quayside throughout the day.

Further along the coast, more people were reportedly seen arriving on Hastings beach after being picked up by the RNLI.

In 2019, Home Secretary Priti Patel promised to make migrant crossings an “infrequent phenomenon” by spring 2020 and then pledged in August last year to “make this route unviable”.

During this time, the Government has agreed to pay France millions of pounds to increase security on its northern coast.

The Home Office has yet to confirm precise numbers for the day’s arrivals, but a spokesman said on Thursday night that the number of crossings was “unacceptable”.

He added: “The British public have had enough of seeing people die in the Channel while ruthless criminal gangs profit from their misery, and our New Plan for Immigration will fix the broken system which encourages migrants to make this lethal journey.”

Despite the increasing numbers of small boats arrivals, the UK continues to see far fewer boat arrivals and asylum claims than many of its European counterparts.

Migrant arrival
About 1,000 migrants made the crossing on Thursday (Gareth Fuller/PA)

At least 100,907 people have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean by land and sea so far this year, according to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

At least 1,313 people are estimated to be dead or missing, according to the same data.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, said: “The people making these perilous sea crossings are doing so out of desperation, largely because there are no safe and legal routes open to them, and many have family and other connections here.

“Instead of seizing on these highly visible crossings to manufacture a supposed ‘national emergency’ in their attempts to justify draconian new asylum policies, ministers ought to be working constructively with the French authorities to provide safe access to asylum procedures on both sides of the Channel.

“The total number of asylum claims being made in the UK over the last few years has remained relatively low and stable, but Channel crossings have become part of the Government’s cynical politicisation of asylum.

“With its current approach, the Government is wilfully endangering people it should be helping. These are cruel tactics and they should end.”