Record 430 migrants cross English Channel in single day

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media captionThe BBC's Jon Donnison spoke to some of the migrants trying to make the dangerous journey

At least 430 migrants crossed the English Channel to the UK on Monday - a new record for a single day - the Home Office has said.

The department said it was taking "substantial steps to tackle the unacceptable problem of illegal migration".

The group included women and young children.

It comes after eight boats carrying 241 migrants reached the UK on Sunday.

On Tuesday, there were further beach landings at Dungeness and Dover, further along the coast.

Already this year, nearly 8,000 people have reached the UK in about 345 boats.

The previous daily high of 416 was set in September 2020.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has pledged to make Channel crossings "unviable", with new legislation that will make it a crime to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission.

The Nationality and Borders Bill, which is currently being considered by MPs, will mean migrants entering without permission could face up to four years in prison.

The government hopes the overhaul of asylum rules will deter migrants making the crossing.

But the plans have been criticised by charities including Refugee Action, which has called them "extreme and nasty".

The home secretary's proposals to change the asylum system are back in Parliament today - and Ms Patel will tell MPs that the British people have had enough of what she calls open borders and uncontrolled migration.

Excluding the pandemic period, the UK consistently receives far fewer asylum applications than comparable nations. In 2019, some 45,000 sought asylum in the UK. That's about a third of the number in France - and 1% of the total number of refugees marooned in Turkey following the war in Syria.

The current rate of small-boat arrivals isn't even a record in UK asylum terms. They average out at 39 a day and, on 2019's figures, are about a third of all asylum applicants.

But more importantly, the total is seven times lower than the records seen during the Tony Blair years.

What is however costing an awful lot of money are the well-documented and worsening delays in the Home Office's £1bn asylum system.

Parliamentary data shows that the total number of asylum seekers who are in limbo waiting for a decision on their futures, or removal after a rejection, has doubled since 2014.

image source, PA Media
image captionThe dinghy's arrival was watched over by the crew of an RNLI lifeboat

Dan O'Mahoney, clandestine channel threat commander, said: "There is an unacceptable rise in dangerous small boat crossings across the channel because of a surge in illegal migration across Europe.

"People should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach and not risk their lives making these dangerous crossings. We are continuing to pursue the criminals behind these illegal crossings."

He added that the Nationality and Borders Bill would "protect lives and break this cycle of illegal crossings" and the government was continuing to return those with no legal right to remain in the UK.

But Amnesty International's Steve Valdez-Symonds told the BBC the new legislation was an "extremely reckless and dangerous response" to the issue and would not tackle the problem of people smugglers.

Instead, he said it was likely to drive desperate people to avoid the authorities, leaving them vulnerable to further exploitation and slavery.

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