In an effort to secure a deal with France to combat people smuggling, the UK government claimed Sunday that more than 40,000 migrants have already crossed the Channel to Britain this year, setting a new record.
The Ministry of Defence reported that the preliminary figure for this year is 40,885, significantly higher than the 28,561 from the previous year and made up primarily of Albanians, Iranians, and Afghans.
As per the report, 972 people were seen on Saturday attempting the dangerous passage in 22 boats.
For years, the numbers have been increasing. As per the UK, 299 were found crossing in 2018, 1,843 in 2019, and 8,466 in 2020.
Despite several UK measures, such as a scheme to relocate the migrants to Rwanda that was thwarted in court, the numbers have kept rising.
After his first in-person meeting with President Emmanuel Macron last week, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that a new strategy reached with France was in the works.
In their discussions on Friday, James Cleverly, the foreign minister of the United Kingdom, and Catherine Colonna, the foreign minister of France, “stressed the urgency of tackling all forms of illegal migration, including small boat crossings and addressing their root causes.”
Rising numbers have slowed the processing of asylum requests and driven up housing expenses, which the UK government estimates to be £6.8 million ($7.8 million) every day. This has put a burden on local services and fuelled public resentment.
(with inputs from agencies)