Crossings of the Channel by migrants reached an unprecedented number in 2021

The figures obtained by the British press agency PA from the British Home Office confirm an impression which already left little room for doubt: the phenomenon of the perilous crossings of the Channel in small boats by migrants dreaming of England exploded in 2021, affecting at least 28,395 people.

This number published Monday, January 3 is more than three times higher than the previous year (more than 8,400), and these desperate attempts have developed strongly since 2018 in the face of the closure of the port of Calais (northern France) and Eurotunnel, which migrants used while hiding in vehicles.

In the month of November 2021 alone, nearly 6,900 people made the crossing despite the danger linked to the density of traffic, strong currents and low water temperature, including a peak of 1,185 people in one. day, the 11th of the month.

Some migrants paid for it with their lives, like at the end of November, when the sinking of a precarious boat – the deadliest in this busy seaway – left 27 dead, sparking a great wave of emotion in the public.

Read the story: Article reserved for our subscribers After the death of 27 migrants in a shipwreck off Calais, the anger of associations

Political puzzle

The illegal Channel crossings have become a real political headache for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Home Secretary Priti Patel, as the Conservative leader has made the fight against immigration his hobbyhorse, in the wake of Brexit.

These crossings are also a subject of regular tension between Paris and London, the British authorities considering insufficient, despite the payment of financial aid, the efforts undertaken on the French side to prevent migrants from boarding. The French, who refute these accusations, retort that London is reluctant to actually untie the purse strings.

The climate between the two capitals was further tense after the murderous shipwreck in November, Paris seeing a very negative view of Boris Johnson’s proposal asking the French to take back migrants who crossed the Channel illegally.

According to the newspaper The Times On Monday, the British have little hope of reaching a deal with France before the French presidential election in April. In the meantime, the British government wants to make “Impracticable” these crossings, for which smugglers increasingly resort to larger capacity boats, of several dozen people.

Read also More than 4,400 migrants died or disappeared at sea while trying to reach Spain in 2021, according to the results of a Spanish NGO

A controversial British bill

A controversial bill, which promises tougher measures against smugglers but also against illegally arrived migrants, is currently being examined in Parliament. If adopted, asylum seekers who have arrived illegally in the country will be returned to the “Safe countries” through which they have previously passed.

Human rights associations are outraged against a text deemed cruel. But for the government it will create “A fair but firm immigration system”, “Will protect the most vulnerable and crack down on illegal immigration and the criminal gangs that facilitate it”.

“People will continue to cross the Channel in precarious boats, and traffickers will continue to rake in profits, unless ministers open up more roads for refugees to seek asylum here”, commented Tim Naor Hilton, director of the Refugee Action association.

Also listen Will the shipwrecks of migrants in the Channel increase?

The World with AFP

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