Migrant Channel crossings fell in 2023, official data sayson January 1, 2024 at 11:24 am

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Government figures show 29,437 people crossed the Channel in 2023, down 36% on 2022.

RNLI rescue migrantsImage source, Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The number of migrants crossing the Channel has fallen year-on-year for the first time since current records began.

Government figures show the total arrivals in 2023 were down by more than a third on 2022.

The provisional annual total for the year, 29,437, is 36% lower than the record 45,774 crossings for the whole of 2022.

The last crossing of the year was on December 16, when 55 people made the journey from France in one boat.

In August last year, the number of migrants crossing the Channel in small boats since current records began in 2018 reached more than 100,000.

However, the Immigration Services Union (ISU), which represents border staff, said the decrease in small boat arrivals in 2023 was likely a “glitch”, with “higher numbers” expected in 2024.

Lucy Moreton from the ISU told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The planning assumption for 2024 is that 2023 has been unusually low. There have been other confounding factors — we have had particularly high winds, we have had a larger number of days where it is less likely that we are going to get migrants in boats.

“But we have also had much larger boats, much more seaworthy boats, so the planning assumption is that this is a glitch.

“Border Force needs to continue to resource itself – and the country needs to continue to resource itself – to deal with higher numbers.”

The figures for 2023 are still higher than those for 2021, which saw 28,526 people make the crossing.

The English Channel is one of the most dangerous and busiest shipping lanes in the world.

Many migrants come from some of the poorest and most chaotic parts of the world, and many ask to claim asylum once they are picked up by the UK authorities.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak previously said “stopping the boats” was a key priority but last month said there was no “firm date” for meeting his pledge after facing questions from MPs.

The promise was one of the five priorities the Prime Minister set out at the start of 2023 when he said he would pass new laws to make sure people deemed to be arriving in the country illegally would be “detained and swiftly removed” as political pressure to grip the migrant crisis intensified.

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