Over 25,000 Illegal Immigrants Have Crossed English Channel to UK This Year

Over 25,000 Illegal Immigrants Have Crossed English Channel to UK This Year
A group of illegal immigrants are brought in to Dover, England, by the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, on Aug. 25, 2022. (Gareth Fuller/PA Media)
Alexander Zhang

More than 25,000 illegal immigrants have been detected crossing the English Channel in small boats to reach the UK since the beginning of 2022, UK government figures show.

According to the Ministry of Defence, 915 illegal immigrants were detected in 19 small boats on Aug. 27, taking the provisional total for the year to 25,146.

There have been 8,747 crossings detected in August so far, with 3,733 in the past week, 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 Stalled

In April, the 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 19,878 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.