More than 15,000 migrants tried to cross the Channel and sneak into Britain last year, new figures show
- Report says Channel crossings grew as clandestine smuggling in lorries declined
- Figures show 8,500 reached the UK in 2020 and more than 15,000 tried to cross
- The number of unsuccessful crossings had not previously been disclosed
More than 15,000 illegal migrants attempted to cross the Channel last year, police have revealed.
Home Office figures show 8,500 migrants reached the UK in 2020 – up from 1,850 in the previous 12 months.
More than 15,000 illegal migrants attempted to cross the Channel last year, police have revealed. A migrant is seen above being brought ashore by Border Force in the English Channel
The number of unsuccessful crossings had not previously been disclosed.
The report, published yesterday by European policing agency Europol, said Channel crossings grew as clandestine smuggling in lorries declined due to better security.
It stated: ‘From January to mid-December 2020, law enforcement authorities of concerned countries registered more than 1,300 incidents involving more than 15,000 irregular migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats.’
It said the totals included ‘successful crossings, attempted crossings or discovery of nautical equipment for crossing’.
The agency, of which the UK is no longer a member following the end of the transition period, said Channel crossings grew as clandestine smuggling in lorries declined, due to better security fencing on the Continent and fewer road freight crossings during the pandemic.
Pictured: Migrants arrive at theSovereign Harbour in Eastbourne, East Sussex earlier this month, after a rescue operation was launched to save a boat ‘in difficulty’
‘Recent tragedies linked to migrant smuggling in confined compartments may deter migrant smugglers from employing this modus operandi,’ it said.
‘Migrant smugglers and organised crime groups have once again shown flexibility and adaptability by using small boats instead of lorries.
‘Furthermore, favourable weather conditions during the year, simple practical implementation and a high success rate made this modus operandi even more appealing for organised crime groups.’
Europol also said: ‘Small boats are not the only type of vessel used by facilitators to smuggle irregular migrants across the Channel to the UK.
‘Registered sailing vessels and motor yachts are also used to transport irregular migrants under the guise of leisure trips, departing from Belgium or the Netherlands.
‘This modus operandi is less visible than departures with small boats since it involves legitimate, registered vessels.’
It noted the case of 69 Albanian migrants found hiding in a trawler destined for an eastern UK port in November, and arrested after a major maritime operation led by the National Crime Agency.
Criminal charges were dropped the following month after a legal bungle, however.
Plans to prosecute the 69 men and women for illegal entry to the UK were abandoned because the migrants never set foot on British soil – a key criteria under the law.