It’s a dramatic record. In 2021, more than 28,000 migrants made a perilous crossing of the English Channel to reach England. The phenomenon is above all in full explosion and poisons relations between London and Paris.
At least 28,395 migrants have reached England’s coasts aboard small boats, more than triple the previous year (over 8,400), UK news agency PA said based on figures from the UK Home Office . The increase has been notable since 2018 due to the closure of the port of Calais and Eurotunnel, which migrants used while hiding in vehicles.
A sad month of november
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 record 1,185 people in a single day, the 11th of the month. Some migrants paid for it with their lives, as at the end of November, when the sinking of a precarious boat – the deadliest in this seaway – left 27 dead, causing a great wave of emotion in the public.
The illegal Channel crossings have become a real political headache for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as the Conservative leader has made the fight against immigration his hobbyhorse in the wake of Brexit. These crossings also constitute 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.
A controversial bill
The climate between the two capitals was further tense after the murderous shipwreck in November, Paris seeing a very negative view of a proposal by Boris Johnson asking the French to take back migrants who crossed the Channel illegally.
From now on, the British government wants to make these crossings “impracticable”, for which passengers increasingly resort to larger capacity boats, of several dozen people. 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 will be returned to the “safe countries” through which they have been received. Human rights associations are outraged against a text deemed cruel.