UK authorities dealt with more than 200 illegal immigrants attempting to cross the Channel on Sunday, the Home Office said.
It comes as the government announced heavier prison sentences for immigrants seeking to make their way to the UK on small boats, as well as their people-smuggling enablers.
According to the Home Office, Border Force officials intervened in six incidents on Sunday involving 212 people, while French authorities reported seven interceptions and prevented a further 238 people from reaching the UK.
Record numbers of people have made the perilous journey across the English Channel in small boats so far this year, with nearly 6,000 reaching the UK in the first six months of 2021.
The total figure for 2020—8,417—could be eclipsed within two months if the number of crossings seen in July and August last year is repeated, PA news agency analysis has shown.
Clandestine Channel Threat Commander Dan O’Mahoney said: “We are seeing an unacceptable rise in dangerous and unnecessary small boat crossings because illegal migration across Europe has led to a significant increase of migrants in northern France seeking to enter the UK illegally.
“The government continues to target the criminal gangs who are responsible for these illegal crossings at every level with intelligence and surveillance, and the joint work with France means we have doubled the number of police officers on the ground in France who are intercepting the crossings and arresting the gangs behind this trade.”
Earlier on Sunday, the Home Office announced stricter enforcements for illegal immigrants and people smugglers as part of the Nationality and Borders Bill, which is due for its first reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
The proposed legislation intends to make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission, with the maximum sentence for those entering the country unlawfully rising from six months’ imprisonment to four years.
The government also plans to also increase the tariff for people smugglers, with those found guilty facing life behind bars—up from the current maximum of 14 years.
A clause contained in the legislation will broaden the offence of arriving unlawfully so that it encompasses arrival, as well as entry into the UK.
The Home Office said the sterner punishments were a bid to prevent “asylum shopping,” claiming that some immigrants are allegedly “picking the UK as a preferred destination over others” when asylum could have been claimed earlier in their journey through Europe.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The Nationality and Borders Bill contains vital measures to fix the UK’s broken asylum system. Our new plan for immigration is fair but firm. We will welcome people through safe and legal routes whilst preventing abuse of the system, cracking down on illegal entry and the criminality associated with it.”
By John Besley and Patrick Daly