More than 20,000 people have been detected crossing the Channel in small boats so far this year, government figures show.
Saturday marked the third time the total has topped 600 in a day since the start of 2022, with 607 people detecting crossing the Channel in 14 boats – the equivalent of about 43 people per vessel.
It takes the provisional total for the year to 20,017, a considerable increase on the numbers from last year. By this point in 2021 there had been just over 11,300 crossings, out of a total of 28,526 detected crossings by the end of the year.
According to the Ministry of Defence, there have been 3,618 crossings detected in August so far, with 1,694 in the past week. The highest daily total for 2022 to date was recorded on 1 August, when 696 people made the crossing in 14 boats.
The Guardian recently reported that people-smugglers had dropped their prices and were cramming more people than ever before into already overloaded, flimsy boats.
Last November, French police quoted a price of about £5,000 charged by smugglers for an individual to cross the Channel, according to reports in the Mirror. Now asylum seekers and nongovernmental organisations are saying prices have dropped to between £500 and £1,000 for a place in a boat.
Campaigners say the increased numbers arriving in more overcrowded boats with cheaper crossing prices demonstrate that plans to forcibly remove some asylum seekers who arrive in the UK on small boats are not acting as a deterrent.
It has been four months since the home secretary, Priti Patel, unveiled plans to send refugees to Rwanda to try to deter people from crossing the Channel. Under the agreement, Rwanda will receive asylum seekers who are deemed by the UK to have arrived “illegally” and are therefore inadmissible under new immigration rules.
The first deportation flight in June was grounded after a number of asylum seekers, the Public and Commercial Services union and charities Care4Calais, Detention Action and Asylum Aid challenged the legality of the policy. Further court hearings are due in September and October.
Despite the growing numbers, the UK’s small boat arrivals are a fraction of the number of people going to Europe. Data from the UN’s refugee agency shows at least 120,441 people arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean by land and sea in 2021.
The Home Office was recently accused of dodging scrutiny after a damning report on the government’s response to the rise in Channel crossings was published on the last day of parliament.
Commissioned by Patel, it concluded that the resources required to prevent illegal entry to the UK by small boats crossing the Channel were “not sustainable”.
The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said: “Thousands of lives are being put at risk in these dangerous boats as the Tories’ approach just isn’t working. We need action to crack down on the criminal gangs who are organising and profiting from this, but instead Conservative ministers are making it harder to tackle the gangs and are wasting time and millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on a Rwanda plan that doesn’t work.
“Labour’s plan will take that wasted money and put it into a new cell at the National Crime Agency to crack down on the criminals responsible and prevent more lives being put at risk.”