What happens to migrants crossing the Channel?

A growing number of migrants are trying to cross the English Channel in canoes and other small boats.

They make the perilous journey for a better life in the UK. Here are all the details…

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Migrants wrapped in blankets wait to be brought ashore by Border Force officersCredit: London News Pictures

How many people try to cross the English Channel?

The number of migrants to complete the Channel crossing in 2021 has already topped 12,500 – up from the record annual figure of 8,410 in 2020.

At least 1,000 migrants crossed the English Channel on September 7, 2021 – the highest number ever recorded in a single day since the start of the crisis.

The migrants told The Sun they thought the risk of dying on a small boat was worth it if they were to achieve their goal of reaching Britain – which some have called “paradise”.

It comes despite Priti Patel’s vow in May 2021 she would ‘slam the door on dangerous criminals’ with a fierce border crackdown.

The minister of the Interior reportedly approved new tactics to redirect migrant boats across the Channel to France as crossing negotiations begin.

She ordered authorities to rewrite maritime laws to allow border forces to turn back, leaving them to French authorities.

It comes after a G7 Home Secretary’s meeting on September 8, when Ms Patel told France that the British public ‘expects to see results’.

Ms Patel has announced ambitious plans for a “fully digital border” by 2025 to facilitate the disposal of convicts.

She also pledged to fix the UK’s ‘broken’ immigration system – and targeted migrants who ‘abuse our generous spirit’.

Speaking to think tank Bright Blue, the Home Secretary said the public ‘wants a new system that works for the law-abiding majority and against those who hope to abuse our hospitality and generous spirit’.

She pledged to create the “world’s most efficient border system” that “welcomes those most in need of asylum – but slams the door on dangerous criminals”.

The actual number of people attempting the crossing is higher, but some boats are intercepted by French authorities before reaching British waters.

Unscrupulous smugglers often charge thousands of dollars for a place on a small dinghy before being pushed towards Dover.

Why has there been an increase in recent weeks?

A combination of warm weather and calm seas is thought to be behind the current rise in migrant crossings in the English Channel.

Clandestine Channel Threat Commander Dan O’Mahoney told the BBC“There is an unacceptable increase in dangerous small boat crossings across the English Channel due to an increase in illegal migration across Europe.

“People should seek asylum in the first safe country they reach and not risk their lives making those dangerous crossings.

“We continue to pursue the criminals behind these illegal crossings.”

How many migrants arrive in the UK each year?

In 2019, some 677,000 people moved to the UK as long-term immigrants, for reasons such as work or study.

There were also 49,000 asylum applications, BBC News reports.

This figure represents about a third of the number in France – and 1% of the total number of refugees abandoned in Turkey following the war in Syria.

Pro-migrant charities accuse the government of overreacting to the crossings for political purposes, when the numbers pale in comparison to the flow of migrants regularly arriving in Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Italy.

The number of migrants crossing the Channel has increased

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The number of migrants crossing the Channel has increasedCredit: Gary Stone – The Sun

Where do migrants come from?

Many migrants come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and countries in Africa, fleeing poverty, persecution or war.

Arrivals include whole families from Yemen, Eritrea, Chad, Egypt, Sudan and Iraq.

Some have a chance of being granted asylum, while others, considered illegal economic migrants, have little chance of being granted the right to stay in Britain.

Why do migrants cross the Channel?

Migrants cross the English Channel to flee their country enraged by war, poverty or political instability.

Organized crime gangs have profited from the trafficking of people from Asia and Africa through Europe over the past 20 years.

In the case of refugees, it is very difficult to apply for asylum in the UK unless you are already in the country.

Mohammed Yousef, 34, who has been in the camp for several weeks after arriving from Sudan, said: “I have already risked so much and gone through so much danger to get here.

“That’s it for getting to the UK. It’s a great place. We all want to get into the UK.”

Mohammed Ahmed, 36, worked as a mechanical engineer in Sudan and hopes to do the same in Britain.

What happens to them when they arrive in the UK?

When they arrive in the UK, migrants are usually taken by UK border forces to short-term detention centres.

Experts say the majority of those crossing the Channel appear to have “strong” asylum claims, many of them from Iran, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

If a migrant applies for asylum and has no money, they can be placed in accommodation somewhere in the UK.

The Home Office pays for the application while the application is being considered.

Other migrants could be kept in detention ahead of a removal plan to mainland Europe.

How many migrants are returned?

Since January 2019, at least 5,800 people have entered the UK on small boats and around 155 migrants have been returned to mainland Europe.

In 2020, more than 36,000 people, including dependents, claimed asylum in the UK, although not all claimants came to the UK on a boat across the English Channel.

The Home Office blamed current regulations – which determine where an asylum seeker’s asylum claim is heard – for the relatively low number of people being sent back to Europe.

Authorities have asked Europe to take in nearly 600 or more migrants.

What is the government doing about level crossings?

Priti Patel reportedly approved new tactics to redirect migrant boats across the Channel to France as crossing negotiations begin.

The interior minister ordered officials to rewrite maritime laws to allow border forces to turn back, leaving them to French authorities.

It comes after a G7 Home Secretary’s meeting on September 8, when Ms Patel told France that the British public ‘expects to see results’.

In May 2021, Ms Patel vowed to “slam the door on dangerous criminals” with a fierce border crackdown.

The Home Secretary has announced ambitious plans for a “fully digital border” by 2025 to facilitate the disposal of convicts.

She also pledged to fix the UK’s ‘broken’ immigration system – and targeted migrants who ‘abuse our hospitality and generous spirit’.

Ms Patel has promised to pursue a ‘digital by default’ strategy so the government can count the number of people coming to Britain.

Visa-free arrivals will be required to apply for a US-style Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) so that their criminal record can be checked.

But Ms Patel also said the electronic border would make it easier for talented internationals to immigrate here under the post-Brexit points-based system.

She said public confidence in immigration had been ‘cut to pieces’ and frustration led to the 2016 Brexit vote and the Tory landslide in 2019 – which she served as a mandate of “comprehensive reform”.

Ms Patel also used the speech to warn foreign criminal gangs that the government is “chasing them”.

The Home Secretary said her “hands will no longer be tied” by bureaucracy, making it difficult for her to evict illegal gangsters.

She fumed: “Allowing these disgusting gangs to continue to line their pockets is morally wrong and against our national interest…and we are prosecuting these gangs.”

She also reiterated previous plans to give more powers to border controls to stop migrants perilously crossing the Channel in small boats.

Plans to strengthen laws to deny refugee status to any asylum seeker who has passed through a safe country before reaching the UK were unveiled during the Queen’s speech.

A dinghy carrying 20 Syrian migrants arrives off Dover after hundreds, including children, crossed the English Channel over the weekend