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Channel migrants: Busiest day of the year sees 442 people enter the UK illegally


Four-hundred and forty two people crossed the English Channel in 10 small boats on Sunday according to figures from the ministry of defence. This figure makes it the busiest day of illegal migrant crossings so far this year.

Persistent bad weather has largely prevented small boats making the journey in significant numbers for more than a month. Just under 600 people have now arrived since the new year.

A break in the weather late on Saturday allowed the criminal people smuggling gangs in France to start pushing small boats off from the beaches.

The boats were launched along a 60-mile-long stretch of shoreline from Dunkirk to well south of the port of Boulogne.

They were shadowed by French naval vessels, who have a policy of not intervening to intercept the inflatables once they get into the water.

However, French authorities have confirmed that one boat carrying 53 people got into difficulties off the Pas-de-Calais and had to be rescued by a naval vessel before being taken to the port of Boulogne.

The first small boat entered the water at Gravelines around 7:30pm on Saturday.

It reached UK waters and those onboard were picked up by UK Border Force around midnight.

The Border Force vessel Volunteer took the first batch of around 40 people to the processing centre in Dover, arriving just after 1am.

They were the first migrants to make it across the Channel since last Tuesday, when 106 people were taken off two small boats in UK waters.

The last arrivals before that were on January 2 when 44 migrants made it across in one small boat, despite poor weather conditions.

Authorities are braced for the possibility that thousands may attempt the crossing in the coming days, as the calmer weather conditions are expected to last until Wednesday.

Sunday's operations in the Channel involved three Border Force catamarans, two RNLI lifeboats and a coastguard plane, along with another British military surveillance aircraft.

Three French naval vessels have also been involved in escorting the small boats as they headed for UK waters.

Into the early morning, several more small boats were intercepted and their occupants taken onboard British vessels.

The Border Force catamarans Ranger and Hurricane arrived at Dover harbour around 7:30 to offload dozens more migrants for processing at the Border Force facility there.

The arrival of at least 380 people on 8 small boats so far today takes the total number who have crossed since the New Year to around 530.

Last year, a record number of 45,756 migrants crossed the English Channel.