Refugee charities are urging the government to open safe roads or risk another wave of Channel deaths after the number of people who traveled to the UK by small boats tripled last year.
Data released Tuesday shows more than 28,300 people crossed the Channel in 2021, three times the number in 2020. The record number came despite tens of millions of pounds spent by Home Secretary Priti Patel on new measures to discourage travel. .
Organizations helping new arrivals said figures showed the government’s strategy risked more deaths at sea. In an incident in November, 27 people, including a seven-year-old boy and a pregnant woman, drowned. in the worst tragedy of its kind.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said he could contemplate more deaths without rethinking. “This government needs to change its approach and instead of seeking to punish or push back those seeking safety because of the type of trip they have made to the UK, they need to create and commit to safe routes, ”he said.
Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, which supports refugees living in northern France, said: “The government tells us that people should travel by legal means, but if it was really possible why would they risk their lives so much. life in fragile boats?
Minnie Rahman, acting head of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said the government’s closure of safe routes had encouraged more dangerous travel. “What has changed is that the safe routes to get here – like the family reunification routes and the Syrian resettlement program – have been completely closed, forcing more people into the hands of human traffickers to arrive. here, ”she said.
At least 28,395 people reached the UK on small boats in 2021, according to an analysis by the Press Association. Arrivals peaked in November when at least 6,869 people reached the UK.
Between November 10 and 16, more than 3,100 people made the perilous crossing, the most in seven days of the current crisis. The same month also saw a new record for a single day of crisis, with 1,185 people reaching British shores aboard 33 boats on 11 November.
Despite international efforts to crack down on smugglers, organized criminal gangs charge thousands of pounds for a place in fragile inflatable boats. The dinghies seen leaving the French coasts and being towed to Dover have increased in size over the past year, with some carrying up to 50 people. Data shows an average of around 28 people on each small boat arriving in the UK in 2021, up from just over 13 in 2020.
A Ferrari news agency analysis last week said 28,381 people traveled by small boat in 2021. The Home Office collects its own data on small boats but refuses to release annual figures, which are rather, compiled daily by journalists.
Home Secretary Tom Pursglove said the government was reforming its approach to asylum through its new immigration plan.
“Seeking asylum in order to obtain protection should not involve people seeking asylum from one country to another or who risk their lives by lining the pockets of criminal gangs to cross the Channel,” he said. he declares. “The Nationality and Borders Bill will make it a criminal offense to knowingly arrive in the UK illegally and introduce life sentences for those who facilitate illegal entry into the country. It will also strengthen the powers of the Border Force to stop and redirect ships, while introducing new powers to return asylum seekers to have their claims processed outside the UK. “