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  • Europe migrant crisis

Image source, PA Media

Around 1,000 people crossed the Channel by boat to reach the UK on Thursday, a new record for migrant Channel crossings in a single day.

Five lifeboats and four Border Force vessels escorted groups to Dover as a period of calm and mild weather made the journey less risky.

A Whitehall source accused France of losing control of the situation.

The Home Office said British people did not want to see people die in the Channel as ruthless gangs profit.

More than 23,000 people have made the crossing from France to the UK by boat so far this year, a sharp rise on the 8,404 in 2020 – and far more than in years before the pandemic, when most asylum seekers arrived by plane, ferry or train.

About 98% of people who arrive in the UK via the Channel apply for asylum. But overall applications for asylum fell in the months after global travel was limited due to Covid-19, and numbers remain slightly lower than before the pandemic.

In 2019, there were 35,737 asylum applications, which fell to 29,815 in 2020. Figures for the first half of 2021 showed 14,670 applications.

In recent years, asylum applications in the UK peaked during the European migration crisis of 2015-16.

  • What happens to migrants who reach the UK?
  • One migrant dies and another missing in Channel

UK officials say they want to stop the Channel crossings – describing them as dangerous and unnecessary.

A Home Office spokesperson said the number of migrant crossings on Thursday was "unacceptable".

"The British public have had enough of seeing people die in the Channel while ruthless criminal gangs profit from their misery and our New Plan for Immigration will fix the broken system which encourages migrants to make this lethal journey," the spokesperson said.

Analysis

by Simon Jones, BBC News

In previous years, the onset of autumn has seen a big drop in the number of people making the perilous crossing. This year, though, that hasn't happened.

It's partly down to the recent mild and calm conditions. But it also suggests that the method of crossing the Channel by boat is seen as the most successful way of getting to the UK – and migrants in northern France are prepared to wait for the right weather to do that.

The British government has repeatedly promised to make the route unviable.

It has explored the idea of turning boats back at sea, but that tactic has yet to be used – and has been condemned by the French authorities.

The big hope now for ministers is their New Plan for Immigration – currently passing through the Commons – which would make it harder for anyone arriving by boat to claim asylum successfully.

But that is likely to face legal challenge – and refugee groups have condemned the idea as cruel.

Under the government's proposed changes to immigration, which are being considered by MPs, people seeking protection as refugees would have their claim assessed based partly on how they arrived in the UK.

People arriving by what the government calls illegal means would no longer have the same entitlement to claim asylum.

But the Refugee Council has said people fleeing war and terror are forced to take extraordinary measures and do not have a choice about how they seek safety.

It said the government's plan would create a two-tier system in which some refugees were unfairly punished for the way they are able to reach the UK.