Channel Crossings Surge as Smugglers Take Advantage of UK Heatwave

By Simon Veazey
Simon Veazey
Simon Veazey
Freelance Reporter
Simon Veazey is a UK-based journalist who has reported for The Epoch Times since 2006 on various beats, from in-depth coverage of British and European politics to web-based writing on breaking news.
September 7, 2021 Updated: September 7, 2021

Boats ferrying immigrants across the English Channel have once again risen towards record numbers, as traffickers take advantage of the heatwave currently embracing the UK.

Eye witnesses reported boats continuing to arriving in Dover on Tuesday, the day after some 750 arrived in small boats from France, according to PA estimates.

If confirmed, that would be the second highest daily number on record.

It puts further pressure on Home Secretary Priti Patel ahead of a meeting with her French counterpart.

The UK has pledged £54 million ($74 million) to support French authorities’ efforts to stop the crossings, as part of an agreement that included doubling the number of police patrolling French beaches.

According to PA, Patel has told MPs said that the funding could be withheld if the French don’t intercept more of the would-be illegal immigrants.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said UK and French officials were working towards implementing the deal and that “significant” funding provided last year had increased patrols and “enhanced intelligence.”

Crossings continued on Tuesday, with eye witnesses reporting boats arriving in Dover, while the RNLI was seen towing another ashore further east in Kingsdown.

The prime minister’s spokesman said, “Following a long period of poor weather, we have seen an increase in crossings as criminal gangs seek to exploit the improved sea conditions.”

Epoch Times Photo
An RNLI boat with people rescued during an attempted Channel cross from France at the shore near Dover, England, on Sept. 6, 2021. (Gareth Fuller/PA)

More than 12,400 people have now crossed the Channel from France this year, according to the latest figures, released on Aug. 23. The total was 8,417 for the whole of last year.

In just one one day last month, a then-record 828 people made the journey in 30 boats, according to government data. That’s over twice the number who made the crossing in the whole of 2018.

Before 2018, the crossing accounted for a tiny proportion of illegal immigration with only a few known to make it each year.

The number of people attempting the crossing started to increase from the winter of 2018.

The English Channel, which is 21 miles across at the narrowest point, is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

In the last two or three years, several people have died attempting to cross.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds called for the government to focus on finding a “workable solution with the French authorities, tackling vile people-smuggling gangs and properly managing safe routes to prevent people risking their lives.”

Last year, when migration dropped due to pandemic restrictions, “known illegal entry” to the UK as a whole was around 16,000 people, according to Home Office statistics.

There is a lack of precise information on levels of what might be categorized as illegal immigration into the UK, in part because the definition of “illegal” immigration is hard to pin down and is subject to different interpretations and uses.

A report by the London School of Economics in 2007 (pdf) estimated the number of “irregular” migrants living in the UK was 533,000—a little under 1 percent of the population.

PA contributed to this report.

Simon Veazey
Freelance Reporter
Simon Veazey is a UK-based journalist who has reported for The Epoch Times since 2006 on various beats, from in-depth coverage of British and European politics to web-based writing on breaking news.