Published: 10:46, April 3, 2024 | Updated: 10:46, April 3, 2024
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Migrant arrivals in UK touch new record
By ​Earle Gale in London

Rubber dinghies which have carried people, believed to be migrants, across the English Channel, arrive to be unloaded from a British Border Force support vessel at the Port of Dover, Dover, Britain, January 17, 2024. (PHOTO / REUTERS)

About 800 migrants crossed the English Channel from France to the United Kingdom during the weekend, making it the busiest period so far in a record-breaking year.

The influx during the Easter holiday weekend brought the total number for 2024 to more than 5,400, the country's Home Office said.

A spokesperson for the UK government department that oversees immigration, security, and law and order told the BBC the scale of the arrivals "demonstrates exactly why we must get flights to Rwanda off the ground as soon as possible".

The 5,435 migrants known to have arrived in the UK in the first three months of 2024 eclipsed the previous record of 4,548 in 2022.

Stephen Kinnock, the opposition Labour Party's immigration spokesman, said UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his ruling Conservative Party had failed to deal with the issue, despite vowing to do so.

"The Tories have overseen an unprecedented level of dangerous Channel crossings this Easter bank holiday," he told the BBC.

"Over Christmas, they were quick to claim credit for the low number of crossings, so where are the home secretary and prime minister now, when we've seen almost 800 people arrive in small boats over the weekend?"

Five pledges

Sunak has made stopping the influx of migrants one of his "five pledges" in the buildup to a general election that will likely take place in the fall. But one of his main weapons, his proposed Rwanda Bill, which calls for some migrants to be sent to the African nation of Rwanda for processing, has stalled in Parliament.

Sunak has said the bill would make migrants who do not have genuine grounds for claiming asylum think twice before heading for the UK.

But the bill has been handed a series of defeats and will not be debated again until April 15 at the earliest, when lawmakers return from their Easter break.

The Home Office spokesperson said the UK will, in the meantime, continue to work closely with police in France "who are facing increasing violence and disruption on their beaches as they work tirelessly to prevent these dangerous, illegal, and unnecessary journeys".

The Daily Express newspaper said an unnamed source from Border Force, the Home Office agency responsible for patrolling the nation's borders, said 100,000 migrants could arrive in the country by the end of the year. Last year's total was 36,704.