More than 8,400 migrants crossed the English Channel to Great Britain in 2020, four times as many as in 2019.
The dangerous journey across some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world has been made from dinghies and kayaks to wading pools.
While thousands of people successfully made their way to the UK, the trip claimed several lives.
The Interior Ministry was accused of “hostile rhetoric” and wasting taxpayers’ money to make the route “unprofitable”. Although another agreement was signed with the French authorities in November, it is unclear whether the crossings will be reduced in 2021.
The PA news agency, which has been tracking and analyzing migrant crossings throughout the year, reports that at least 8,417 people have managed to get into the UK in small boats.
Trips peaked in September with at least 1,951 crossings – more than the total for 2019 – while on a two-week route in August there were crossings every day and more than 1,200 people came to the UK.
The day’s high was on September 2, when 416 migrants traveled to Britain in small boats.
In October, a Kurdish-Iranian family with young children died when their migrant boat sank off the coast of France. This caused an outcry of sadness and anger on both sides of the Canal, but many fear that their life will not be the last to be lost in the dangerous path.
Boats have also been intercepted by Border Force or landed on UK beaches more than 630 times in 2020, and more than one day in three saw at least one crossing.
The Interior Ministry also used military support to reduce crossings. RAF aircraft and an army drone flew over the English Channel.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has been criticized by Bella Sankey, director of the humanitarian charity Detention Action, who said millions of tax dollars were “squandered” on the unicorn of “inevitability”.
She told PA: “The Interior Minister’s 2020 asylum record is one of failure and denial. If Priti Patel only agreed to meet those who understand these issues instead of using their platform to attack them, she could lessen the chaos and make competent and compassionate political decisions instead. “
Natalie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover and Deal, said “all options must be on the table”.
She told PA: “We need the French to prevent the boats from leaving in the first place, to bring boats back in the English Channel to France instead of bringing them to Britain, and to bring back people who come into our country through these illegal routes.
“Looking ahead to 2021, I look forward to working with the Home Secretary to ensure the necessary legislation is in place to put an end to these dangerous little boats crossing once and for all.”
Immigration Secretary Chris Philp claimed that “more dangerous and illegal crossings are being prevented than ever before”.
He said: “People entering the UK on illegally facilitated routes are against our laws. This year we have taken unprecedented steps to make this route completely unprofitable.
“We are targeting criminal gangs who are breaking our laws, doubling the number of police officers on the ground in France, stepping up surveillance and introducing new cutting-edge technologies to step up our efforts and stop these transitions for good.”