A record number of more than 28,000 migrants crossed the Channel from France to the UK in small boats last year, the PA news agency reported on Tuesday, based on its analysis of government data.
As smugglers tapped into demand, charging thousands of pounds for journeys through the busy seaway in fragile boats, at least 28,395 people reached the UK – more than triple the figure for 2020.
The peak came in November, when at least 6,869 people reached the UK, spurred on by favorable weather conditions.
On November 11, a record 1,185 people reached British shores in a single day.
The higher numbers were in part due to the use of larger boats, carrying an average of around 28 people and sometimes as many as 50.
Such crossings ended tragically for many, with at least 27 migrants drowning off France on November 24 during an attempted crossing in a boat that French authorities compared to an inflatable children’s pool.
The 27 victims were mostly men but also included seven women, a 16-year-old and a seven-year-old child.
They were mainly Iraqi Kurds, but also an Iranian Kurd, Afghans, Ethiopians, Somali and an Egyptian.
The high number of migrants crossing Britain from mainland Europe has become a political headache for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Home Secretary Priti Patel.
The flow of migrants has also deteriorated Britain’s relations with France, prompting an inappropriate blame game even as both sides attempt to disrupt human trafficking networks.
The UK government‘s Nationality and Borders Bill is currently before parliament, promising tougher measures against smugglers and, controversially, migrants themselves.
If passed, the bill, which is opposed by rights groups, will allow the return of asylum seekers who have passed through “safe third countries”.