Hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers resume Channel crossing

Migrants and asylum seekers were seen being brought into the port of Dover in southeast England aboard lifeboats and Border Force vessels after being picked up in the English Channel.

There appears to have been an 11-day break in crossings from April 20-30 during a period of strong winds and rough seas. (AFP archive)

Hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers crossed the English Channel from France to Britain in small boats, after an 11-day hiatus in arrivals.

The UK Ministry of Defense said 254 people arrived on Sunday, adding to a total of nearly 7,000 who have reached the country so far in 2022.

That’s more than three times the number recorded at this time last year, according to data compiled by Britain’s Press Association news agency.

The resumption of travel, believed to be due to a change in weather, comes weeks after Britain announced controversial proposals to send those crossing the English Channel thousands of miles away to Rwanda.

The plans, which have been heavily criticized by UK rights groups and opposition parties, come as the number of migrants crossing one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes has risen dramatically.

Trips, in unsuitable and dangerous craft, were rare before 2019 but have since increased dramatically – with 28,526 recorded in 2021 – and fueled political controversy.

Around 90% of arrivals last year were male and three-quarters were male aged 18-39.

They have ratcheted up the pressure on the Conservative government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose voters often cite illegal immigration as one of their main problems.

READ MORE: British and French officials face manslaughter charges over Channel tragedy

Nationality and Borders Act

Parliament last week passed its controversial Nationality and Borders Act, which introduces maximum sentences of life imprisonment for smugglers accused of facilitating irregular migration.

But it also imposes harsher prison sentences on anyone arriving in the country illegally, raising fears it could be used against asylum seekers and refugees.

The British Navy also took operational control of patrols and interceptions of migrants in the English Channel.

Meanwhile, last month Johnson unveiled much-criticized plans to send anyone entering the UK illegally to Rwanda, as well as those who have arrived illegally since January 1.

Proposals to relocate tens of thousands of people in the coming years, which are expected to be challenged in UK courts, have been called “inhumane” by rights groups.

The UN refugee agency was among those who expressed strong opposition.

READ MORE: Five things to know about the refugees who died in the Channel tragedy

Source: AFP