Boat Tracker

Data on the small boats illegally crossing the English Channel

What you need to know:

At least 45,755 people crossed illegally in around 1,106 boats in 2022. This is 1.6 times the 28,526 people reported arriving in 2021

A population the size of a city – at least 87,839 people – have been disclosed as coming uninvited by boat since 1 January 2018

UK taxpayers fork out about £5.6 million per day housing asylum claimants and refugees, including in four-star resorts

Data: monthly arrivals

Data: daily arrivals

What is the government doing about the crisis?

The Home Secretary said in October 2019 that these crossings would be an ‘infrequent phenomenon’ by Spring the following year. Yet crossings skyrocketed during 2020. By last autumn the government had suggested it had put an ‘operational plan’ with France and a Minister noted in Parliament: “This Government will not rest until we have taken the necessary steps to completely end these crossings.”

However, the number of people crossing continues to rise even after nearly £200 million of taxpayers’ money was paid to France since September 2014 to tackle illegal immigration (see media report). This is hardly value for money.

What happens to those who arrive?

The government is also spending around £400 million of taxpayers’ money each year on ‘free’ accommodation for more than 60,000 asylum seekers and failed claimants over the next decade (total of £4 billion in the ten years from mid-2019 – see National Audit Office summary). The number of people housed has tripled since 2012 when it was around 20,000.

The number of people in such accommodation has increased recently from just below 50,000, in part as a result of measures put in place in the midst of the Covid pandemic but also due to the increase in illegal Channel crossings.

18,000 people are in hotels in what is known as ‘contingency’ or ‘initial accommodation’ set aside for people just after they claim asylum but are awaiting an allocation of more long-term housing (for more read this piece).

This despite the fact that, as Home Office sources admitted recently, housing thousands of migrants in hotels creates a “pull factor”.

The incentives are skewed so that they encourage, rather than discourage, illegal trips that often lead to asylum abuse (also see this Home Office page telling people what they will get if they claim asylum).

Payments and the offer of free housing for those eligible while an asylum claim is being processed (and for thousands of failed claimants) may serve to encourage people to attempt the dangerous and needless journey.

98% of those arriving claim asylum once landed, says the Home Office, even though they are traveling from a safe country from which protection is not required. However, 81% have been found by the authorities not to have a credible claim here in the UK. The asylum route should be reserved only for the truly needy.

How can we stop the illegal crossings?

In a scandalous incident in early June 2021, there were reports that a Border Force ship actually entered French waters and took on board migrants from a UK-bound dinghy. Lucy Moreton, from the Immigration Services Union, was reported as saying it was a common tactic for migrants to threaten to throw someone overboard if a French vessel came too close, because migrants knew if they were picked up by a UK ship they were “as good as here”.

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders has confirmed that migrants dangle children overseas and threaten to drop them into the sea unless their illegal entry into the UK is allowed.

As one MP, a member of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, has said: “The occupants of those boats are committing two crimes. One is trying to enter the UK illegally and the second is paying money to organised crime”.

The criminal behaviour of those on board suggests that the UK needs to take tough actions in order to prevent entry. To do anything else just encourages illegal immigration and dangerous and sickening people-smuggling.

Instead of the boats being stopped and turned back to French waters, as they can and should be (e.g. under Article 25 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) many people are brought to the UK by the Border Force (or Coastguard) after being encountered the Channel. French vessels have even been seen shepherding unsafe boats into UK waters and abandoning them.