More than 100,000 people have now crossed the Channel in small boats since records began

Politics

The number of people who have crossed the English Channel in small boats in the past five years has now passed 100,000.

The latest Home Office figures show 755 migrants were detected in the Channel on Thursday, the highest daily figure so far this year.

As of Tuesday this week, government figures showed that 99,960 people had made the perilous journey from France to the UK since 2018.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) was spotted bringing “dozens” of people shore on Thursday, the PA news agency reported, meaning the 100,000 threshold was likely to have been crossed.

The figures show a huge year-on-year surge, with just 299 small boat arrivals in 2018 compared with 28,526 in 2021 and 45,755 in 2022.

The news will come as a blow to the government which has used this week to try to make a series of tough announcements on illegal migration.

Rishi Sunak has made stopping the small boat crossings one of his five key priorities for his government, but his plans for bringing down illegal immigration have been mired in difficulty and delay.

More on Migrant Crisis

This week only 15 people were moved on to the Bibby Stockholm barge after legal challenges prevented 20 others from being transferred to the vessel.

The accommodation, off the coast of Dorset, is ultimately intended to house 500 single men – although that is less than 1% of the people waiting for their claims to be heard.

As well as barges, the government wants to use tents and military bases as cheaper forms of accommodation than hotels, which the Home Office says are costing taxpayers £6m a day.

But one military site, RAF Scampton, has also reportedly been delayed until October after there were setbacks in conducting surveys on the 14 buildings designated for migrant accommodation.

The government is also relying on its £140m scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as a means to curb the number of small boat crossings, but no flight has yet taken off due to the policy being held up in the courts.

The row over illegal migration reached a head when deputy Tory chairman, Lee Anderson admitted the government was failing on immigration – after saying that migrants who did not like barges should “f*** off back to France”.

His use of the F-word has been backed by Downing Street and several senior Tories, who said he was expressing the frustration of the British public.

Labour accused the government of ramping up the divisive rhetoric to distract from failures on immigration, with shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper branding the remarks “clearly wrong”.

However, cabinet ministers have defended the government’s immigration strategy as they made a series of announcements aimed at the problem, including a crackdown on immigration lawyers helping migrants “exploit” the system and a new partnership with Turkey to disrupt people-smuggling gangs.

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