Rwanda asylum policy: more than 10,000 migrants crossed Channel to UK in 100 days since plan announced

Figures from the Ministry of Defence suggest the migrant Channel crossing crisis is worsening despite the Government’s controversial Rwanda policy.

More than 10,000 migrants crossed the English Channel in the first 100 days since the UK Government announced its controversial Rwanda plan, at least 25% more than during the same period last year, analysis by NationalWorld can reveal.

Campaigners say the Rwanda policy, which aims to send migrants 4,000 miles away to the east African country to claim asylum, is not working as a deterrant and argue it is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Despite the treacherous journey and the threat of being sent to Rwanda, the latest figures from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) suggest the problem is actually worsening.

Between April and July 2022, at least 2,020 more people crossed the Channel compared to  the same period in 2021.

The analysis comes after the home affairs committee concluded last week (17 July) that there is no clear evidence that the Rwanda policy is deterring migrants from attempting to cross the Channel.

No migrants have yet been sent to Rwanda, however Conservative leader candidate, Liz Truss, vowed to extend the policy and work with other countries on similiar partnerships.

‘A worsening crisis’

The latest weekly figures published by the MoD show 10,086 people crossed the Channel between 14 April and 24 July, with 266 small boats identified. The period covers the first 102 days since the policy was announced 14 April.

In the most recent week (18 to 24 July), 610 people made the journey with 15 small boats identified.

Between 1 and 24 July alone, 2,638 people attempted the crossing, with 63 small boats identified.

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Analysis by NationalWorld also shows more people have crossed the Channel since the plan’s announcement than during the same period in previous years.

Weekly figures have only been released since 14 April this year.

But monthly figures published last year by the Home Office show just over 8,000 attempted the crossing between April and July 2021 – a period 122 days long. That was 25% fewer than during the 102 days since the Rwanda policy was announced.

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The Channel crossing crisis peaked last year when 78 people were recorded to have attempted the crossing each day. In total 28,526 people made the crossing in 1,034 small boats. Between 2018 and 2021 almost 40,000 people have attempted to cross the English Channel in a small boat.

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‘Human cargo’

Andy Hewett, head of advocacy at the Refugee Council, said “shameful policies” such as the Rwanda plan are “not working as a deterrent of any kind”.

“These cruel and harmful tactics won’t work, because they do nothing to address the reasons people come in the first place,” he said

“The most effective way to stop dangerous crossings is to provide more safe routes for people to get here, and a fair and effective asylum system that identifies and helps those in need.”

The crossing from Calais to Dover is around 20 miles and extremely dangerous. Many people resort to travelling on inadequate dinghies or other inflatable boats organised by people traffickers.

Last November, 27 people died after an inflatable dinghy sank off the coast of Calais – the largest single loss of life in the English Channel since the UN migration agency, The International Organization for Migration, started recording data in 2014. The deaths include seven women (one pregnant) and three children.

Mr Hewett added: “The Government needs to work collaboratively with France and the EU about sharing responsibility. Rather than treating people as human cargo by sending them to Rwanda, this Government must create well thought-out, long-term solutions that address why people are forced from their homes and provide them with safe routes to the UK.”

Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive of Refugee Action, added that the Government is “wasting” taxpayers’ money on “nasty get-tough-quick schemes”.

He said: “Ministers’ focus on keeping people out rather than keeping people safe simply drives up demand for criminal smugglers and ignores the powerful reasons why refugees come to the UK, such as family and language.

‘Crack down on abuse of the system’

The Government said the rise in Channel crossing is “unacceptable” and it is making changes to reform the immigration and asylum system.

A spokesperson said: “The Nationality and Borders Act will enable us to crack down on abuse of the system and the evil people smugglers, who will now be subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

“Under our new Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda, we are continuing preparations to relocate those who are making dangerous, unnecessary and illegal journeys into the UK in order for their claims to be considered and rebuild their lives.”

This story was updated on 28 July 2022 to include a comment sent from the UK Government.