Almost 5,000 Channel migrant crossings so far in 2024

Migrants being brought ashore in Dover on Easter Saturday
Migrants being brought ashore at Dover on Saturday [PA Media]

Seven small boats carrying 349 people crossed the English Channel on Saturday, the Home Office has said.

It brought the total for 2024 so far to 4,993 people, according to provisional government data.

It follows three days without any new arrivals.

Rishi Sunak's Conservative government has promised to "stop the boats" but shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said the pledge had been "left in tatters".

On Tuesday the total for the year so far topped the record for arrivals between January and March, when 338 people were brought ashore at Dover.

In January five people drowned in French waters while trying to cross the English Channel.

The total for the whole of 2023, according to Home Office figures, was 29,437.

A UK Border Force vessel bringing migrants into Dover
Nearly 5,000 migrants have crossed the English Channel in the first three months of 2024 [PA Media]

A key plank of the government's strategy is the plan to send small boat arrivals to Rwanda, but legislation was not passed before Easter after peers inflicted a series of defeats on the flagship bill.

The bill will return to the Commons when parliament resumes on 15 April.

Mr Kinnock said 2024 had seen "one unwanted record after another for the number of arrivals".

He said: "We can also see from these figures that there is a major tragedy waiting to happen in the Channel.

"Poor quality, overcrowded dinghies are putting to sea and getting into trouble early in their journeys, while the smuggling gangs responsible are left to count their profits.”

'Dangerous and illegal'

Illegal immigration minister Michael Tomlinson said it was clear Labour had "no plan at all".

He said Labour had voted 118 times against measures the Conservatives had created to secure borders, adding: "The numbers of illegal migrants would only go up under Labour, who are determined to scrap a working deterrent in the Rwanda plan."

He said the government had brought small boats arrivals down by a third and 24,000 people were returned last year.

A Home Office spokesman said: "The unacceptable number of people who continue to cross the Channel demonstrates why we must get flights to Rwanda off the ground as soon as possible.

"We continue to work closely with French police who are facing increasing violence and disruption on their beaches as they work tirelessly to prevent these dangerous, illegal and unnecessary journeys.”

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