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How many migrants crossed the English Channel in the last year

By Sam Lennon

More than 700 migrants planned or tried to reach Britain via the Channel in small boats in 14 months.

And just over 140 were returned to France when stopped, according to government figures in the first count-up of its kind.

They show that British and French authorities encountered 562 people in 2018 and 177 in January and February this year.

Migrants rescued off Calais last December. Picture: Gendarmerie Maritime
Migrants rescued off Calais last December. Picture: Gendarmerie Maritime

The total of 739 included 133 who people arrived in the UK without being stopped, 293 who were intercepted and brought to the UK and 144 who were stopped and returned to France.

The remaining 167 were linked to aborted departures from France.

The statistics from the Home Office also say that from January 2018 to February 2019 there were 98 incidents involving migrants trying to cross the Channel.

A total 76 were during 2018, mostly in the second half, and the remaining 22 were in the first two months of 2019.

A total of 56 interceptions, rescues and escorts took place at sea, nine of these in January and February this year.

Of the 56, 32 were carried out by the Border Force, 19 by French authorities, three by the Coastguards and RNLI and two by non-law enforcement vessels.

The exact statistic went to Home Affairs committee chairman Yvette Cooper
The exact statistic went to Home Affairs committee chairman Yvette Cooper

These figures were set out in a letter from Home Office Permanent Secretary Sir Philip Rutnam to MP Yvette Cooper, chaimman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee.

He wrote: "This letter represents the first time that my department has released detailed figures on the migrant crossings issue.

"The recording of data on some of these incidents is not straightforward.

"For example we have encountered some instances where migrants have denied entering on a small boat despite evidence to the contrary, in order to frustrate the efforts of Border Force and Immigration enforcement to establish the circumstances of their entry."

In the case of an aborted departure, involvement by the French authorities is taken as evidence that there were grounds to suspect those involved were trying to cross the Channel by small boat.

If there are sufficient grounds incidents can be recorded as migrant cases without even the recovery of a boat.

This is done on both sides of the Channel.

One of the Border Force boats in Dover Harbour. Picture: Sam Lennon
One of the Border Force boats in Dover Harbour. Picture: Sam Lennon

The recent trend has been for migrants to reach the UK by crossing the sea in small craft.

This has now become an alternative to the years-old method if migrants arriving by hiding in the backs of lorries as they come in on ferries or through the Channel Tunnel.

As incidents continued during 2018, almost weekly, Home Secretary Sajid Javid in December declared the situation a "major incident."

He ordered the deployment of two more Border Force cutters to to Channel to tackle the problem.

In January he produced a joint action plan with his French counterpart, interior minister Christophe Castaner.

This included an investment of more than £6 million in new security equipment and more CCTV watching on French beaches and ports and regular footage fed live to UK authorities.

French Embassy spokesman Aurélie Bonal now told Kent Online: “The French and British authorities are working very closely together to tackle the issue of traffickers and illegal migrant smuggling in the Channel.

" The UK-France Coordination and Information Centre, based in Calais, opened in January.

It operates 24/7, ensuring the security of all transport infrastructure between France and Britain and permanent coordination between all the British and French services concerned.”

Some migrants were stopped and brought back to France: View of Calais. Picture: Sam Lennon
Some migrants were stopped and brought back to France: View of Calais. Picture: Sam Lennon

Kent Online has kept up its own count of incidents since last year.

For the months March and April 2019 it has added up a gross of 16 incidents involving a total 150 people.

The last in this set of cases was on April 24, involving eight men and a teenager brought into Dover.

Arrivals over the last year have also occurred at Kingsdown near Deal, Folkestone and Romney Marsh.

Our figures also include cases of migrants being stopped by French authorities and brought back to France.

Read more: All the latest news from Dover

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