Record number of migrants crossing the Channel despite new sanctions

On Monday, a record number of migrants attempted to make the dangerous journey across the Channel, casting further doubt on the government’s efforts to tighten the border and “break the business model” of smugglers.

As of midnight, nearly 700 migrants had been detected traveling in 14 small boats, according to data released Tuesday by the Defense Ministry, which also confirmed that a monthly record 3,683 migrants attempted the crossing from France in July .

This brings the total number of migrants sailing the busy shipping lanes from France to England to more than 17,000 so far this year, up from 28,500 in the course of 2021.

The government of outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson had hoped for tougher immigration legislation, combining prison sentences of up to four years for people entering the UK through unofficial channels with life sentences for those profiting from the traffic, would reduce the numbers and “break the business model” of people smugglers.

Home Secretary Priti Patel stepped up the legislation when she announced in April her flagship plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda under a £120million deal with the nation of Central Africa. But since then the numbers to the UK have climbed.

A UK government spokesman described the situation as ‘unacceptable’ and insisted it was reforming the country’s ‘broken asylum system’. They said 23 people had been arrested since the Nationality and Borders Act made it a criminal offense to arrive in the UK by irregular means.

“As part of our new partnership on migration and economic development with Rwanda, we are continuing preparations to relocate those making dangerous, unnecessary and illegal journeys to the UK,” they added.

A report by the all-party House of Commons Home Affairs Committee last month said there was no evidence that Rwandan policy deterred asylum seekers from crossing the Channel or the smugglers bringing them in.

But MPs acknowledged that one possible reason for the increase in recent crossings was that, as the Rwandan scheme had not yet started, human traffickers were encouraging migrants willing to risk the crossing to do so before until she starts.

Patel’s plans for Rwanda were dramatically, albeit temporarily, halted in June when a series of legal challenges all the way to the European Court of Human Rights stalled the first of many flights of scheduled removals. A judicial review of the policy’s legality, launched by a coalition of refugee and human rights groups and trade unionists, is due to begin in September.

MPs argued there was no magic cure for Channel crossings, but said greater collaboration with France must be part of any solution.

The Home Office on Tuesday refused to confirm reports from The Times newspaper reporting a new payment of several million pounds to France to step up surveillance and patrols.

“The UK’s partnership with France in 2022 has resulted in more than 13,500 attempted crossings from France being stopped, up 60% from this stage last year,” he said, adding that joint security operations had also led to the dismantling of 21 organized criminal groups. involved in trafficking.