Number of Illegal Immigrants Crossing English Channel to UK This Year Has Exceeded Whole of 2021

Number of Illegal Immigrants Crossing English Channel to UK This Year Has Exceeded Whole of 2021
A group of illegal immigrants are brought in to Dover, England, by the RNLI, on Aug. 25, 2022. (Gareth Fuller/PA Media)
Alexander Zhang

More illegal immigrants have crossed the English Channel to reach the UK so far this year than in the whole of 2021, UK government figures suggest.

Some 601 people were detected on Sept. 12 in 19 boats, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said, taking the provisional total for the year to 28,561.

Last year’s total was 28,526, according to official figures.

The 2022 figure to date is nearly double the number that had been detected by this point last year, which was just under 14,500.

There have been 3,518 crossings recorded in September so far, analysis shows.

A record 1,295 illegal immigrants crossed the Channel on Aug. 22, the highest figure for a single day since the current system of record-keeping began in 2018.

According to figures from the Home Office, the number of illegal crossings has soared in recent years, with 28,526 people detected in 2021, compared to 8,466 in 2020, 1,843 in 2019, and 299 in 2018.

‘Tour Guide’

The way UK authorities have been handling the small boats crossing the Channel has been widely criticised.

Almost all of the dinghies and rigid inflatable boats were intercepted by the navy, the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, or other UK law enforcement vessels, which then took the illegal immigrants ashore and handed them over to the immigration authorities.

At a meeting of the Defence Select Committee in the House of Commons on July 12, Labour MP John Spellar said the Royal Navy wasn’t stopping illegal immigrants from entering the UK but was simply escorting them into Kent ports.

He suggested that the Royal Navy appeared to be acting as a “tour guide” for illegal immigrants.
Armed forces minister James Heappey denied the charge and insisted that he believed the Royal Navy had “gained control” of the English Channel.

Rwanda Plan

In April, then-Home Secretary Priti Patel signed a deal with Rwanda that involved sending illegal immigrants who had crossed the channel to the African country.

The agreement was designed to be a deterrent to those making the journey by sea, but 23,293 people have arrived by boat since it was signed.

The first deportation flight to Rwanda was grounded amid legal challenges in June, and the matter isn’t expected to be decided by the UK courts until October.

Last month, two reports criticised the Home Office over its “ineffective” response to the challenge of illegal immigration in the channel. One said the Border Force’s approach to preventing the journeys was “ineffective and possibly counter-productive,” while the other said the initial processing of those who arrived has been “ineffective and inefficient.”
Chris Summers, Lily Zhou, and PA Media contributed to this report.