Nearly 60,000 people are set to make the dangerous journey across the Channel in small boats this year as it appears the Home Office has agreed to pay £234,000 to charter a private vessel to help Border Force.
Some 28,526 people crossed the Channel last year, according to official figures, but that figure is expected to almost double in 2022, according to a union representing Border Force workers.
The forecast was also made before the invasion of Ukrainewhat caused an exodus of refugees flee conflict.
More than 2,100 people have already crossed the Dover Strait in small boats so far this year – hundreds of them over the past week – despite the freezing winter chills and the dangers involved.
Morale for Border Force personnel is at an all time low as they prepare for an even busier year while also having to deal with a ‘tremendously old’ fleet of cutter ships, Lucy Moreton, of the Union for the Borders, Immigration and Customs (UIS) mentioned.
Staff have been asked to work on a planning assumption that arrivals in 2022 will nearly double.
“The planning is almost 60,000, and that was before Ukraine,” she told Sky News.
house secretary Priti Patel and the government have repeatedly pledged to make the Channel route ‘unviable’ and tens of millions of pounds pledged to France to help solve the problem.
It comes as documents released this week show the Home Office awarded a contract to charter a vessel to ‘assist in the transport of migrants recovered from the sea to UK reception centres’.
The award figure of £234,000 was listed alongside the contract details, but has since been removed.
The Home Office declined to say whether the contract was for an additional vessel or an extension of a vessel already in service.
“As refugees flee Ukraine, it couldn’t be more obvious”
A spokesperson said the Nationality and Borders Bill would crack down on smugglers and help fix “the broken system”.
They added: “We are facing a global migration crisis, we are seeing an unacceptable increase in high risk and unnecessary small boat crossings due to illegal migration.”
However, Minnie Rahman of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said: “People fleeing conflict and persecution should be able to travel safely to reunite with loved ones and gain protection – while refugees are fleeing Ukraine, this could be more obvious.
‘If this government were serious about preventing risky crossings and providing refuge to people who need it, they would establish regulated asylum pathways in the UK now.’