Channel crossings topped 28,500 in 2021, new Home Office figures show

SOME 28,526 people arrived in the UK after crossing the English Channel in small boats last year, according to official figures released for the first time.

The Interior Ministry on Thursday released statistics measuring irregular migration for the first time, confirming the official annual totals recorded by the government.

The data reveals that the total for 2021 is slightly higher than expected.

According to the report, last year’s figure compares with 8,466 people crossing in 2020, 1,843 in 2019 and 299 in 2018.

November 2021 saw the highest number of small boat arrivals in the last four years (6,971) and the number of UK arrivals each month last year was higher than for comparable periods in 2020.

Most of the people who made the crossing last year (90%) were men, according to Home Office data.

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Three-quarters (75%) of all arrivals were men aged 18-39, 5% were men aged 40 and over, while 7% were women. About 12% were children, of whom 76% were boys.

About 30% of those arriving were Iranian nationals, 21% were Iraqis, 11% were Eritreans and 9% were Syrians.

Iranians “represented the vast majority” of small boat arrivals in 2018 (80%) and 2019 (66%). But a greater mix of nationalities has been recorded since 2020, the Home Office said.

Gender and nationality information was not available for some arrivals.

There were an average of 28 people on board each boat in 2021 and crossings took place around two every five days.

There were 1,034 small boats (carrying multiple people) detected arriving in the UK in 2021, up from 641 in 2020, 164 in 2019 and 43 in 2018.

The average number of people on board small boats last year was “much higher” than in 2020, when there were 13. That figure compares to 11 in 2019 and seven a year earlier.

Dr Peter William Walsh, senior researcher at the University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory, said the reasons for the increase in small boat arrivals “are not yet fully known” and that it is ” hard to predict how the numbers will change…over time.” .

He added: ‘A large majority of people crossing the Channel in small boats claim asylum after being brought to the UK, and evidence from around the world suggests changes in asylum claims are largely driven by developments well beyond the control of UK policy makers, such as crises and violence in other countries.

The Home Office document describes the arrivals of small boats as a “phenomenon which was rare before 2019 but whose number has increased sharply since then” and clarified that this mode of transport is only one of many which could be used to reach the UK border and “seek unauthorized entry”.

He added: ‘It is not possible to know the exact size of the irregular population in the UK, nor the total number of people who enter the UK irregularly.

Immigration Minister Kevin Foster said: ‘This Government is correcting our country’s approach to illegal entry into the UK and asylum by making the tough decisions to end overt exploitation of our laws and of British taxpayers.

“We know there is no simple solution to this problem, but our new plan for immigration will deliver the fair but tough system that Britons have voted for time and time again.”

The Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, which will make it a criminal offense to knowingly arrive in the UK illegally and introduce life sentences for those who facilitate illegal entry into the country, is currently pending in Parliament.

But the Scottish Parliament has refused to approve the legislation, saying it would interfere with devolved powers, raise serious concerns about the welfare of children and could harm anti-trafficking efforts.

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The decision comes a week after the Welsh Parliament rejected the Westminster legislation, with Senedd Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt saying the provisions of the UK Government’s bill would ‘fundamentally undermine’ the ‘nation’s vision of the sanctuary” of this country.