Record 40,000 migrants cross English Channel so far this year

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By Euronews  with AFP
FILE: Migrants who crossed the Channel in a small boat rescued by UK authorities, Dover
FILE: Migrants who crossed the Channel in a small boat rescued by UK authorities, Dover   -   Copyright  AP   -  

The number of migrants making the perilous crossing of the English Channel in makeshift boats to reach the United Kingdom has hit a new record high mark on Sunday -- more than 40,000 -- according to the British Ministry of Defence.

Government figures show that 972 people crossed the English Channel in 22 small boats on Saturday, bringing the total since the start of the year to 40,885.

Never have so many migrants -- especially Albanians, Iranians and Afghans -- made the dangerous crossing. During the whole of last year, 28,526 crossings were recorded, which was already a record then. 

Britain and France are due to sign a joint declaration on Monday to ramp up their efforts to stop illegal migrants from making perilous journeys across the Channel.

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin will host his British counterpart Suella Braverman in Paris to sign an agreement, according to reports.

The rising figures have been putting pressure on the government as the UK's ruling Conservative Party have made tackling immigration a top priority since Brexit, and the asylum system is more overwhelmed than ever.

Successive Conservative governments have considered a range of options: including abandoning some illegal or unworkable ideas like pushing boats out of British waters with artificial waves, locking migrants on ocean liners offshore or sending them to remote islands. 

The latest plan, announced under Boris Johnson, envisaged sending asylum seekers to Rwanda but this plan has stalled.

The subject is a point of tension with Paris even as the two countries announced Friday in a joint press release “progress” to find a new agreement on the question.

Under the deal, it's thought the United Kingdom would be ready to pay an additional €91 million euros to France for police reinforcements on French beaches, while British agents would have access to French control centres.

In the UK, recent revelations about overcrowded reception centres have caused controversy in a country where the population remains mainly in favour of welcoming migrants.

Interior Minister Suella Braverman, far to the right, also shocked by calling the influx of migrants arriving in the United Kingdom an “invasion”, remarks deemed “horrible” by the United Nations.