4 charts explaining the rise of migrant crossings over the perilous English Channel

Seventeen men, seven women and three children drowned while trying to cross the English Channel on an inflatable boat on Wednesday. It was the deadliest small boat crossing by migrants trying to reach the UK since records began in 2014. Here are the facts and figures behind the tragedy.

How many migrants cross the English Channel by boat?

This year has seen a tripling of the number of migrants making the perilous journey over the English Channel in small boats.

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More than 25,700 people have succeeded in reaching the UK so far this year, more than three times the number seen in the whole of 2020, when 8,417 people crossed the Dover Strait.

These figures are based on Home Office data obtained and analysed by the PA news agency.

Organisations working with migrants say increased security around freight terminals in France has led to more people trying to make the crossing by boat.

This comes despite repeated vows from the Government to make such crossings “unviable” and tens of millions of pounds promised to France to help tackle the issue.

How many people die trying to make the crossing?

There is little data available on the number of people who have died or gone missing while attempting to cross the Channel.

The International Organization for Migration set up its Missing Migrants Project to try to fill this gap.

According to figures it has compiled through official sources, media reports and interviews with survivors, at least 156 people have died trying to cross the English Channel since their records began in 2014, excluding the 27 lives lost when a boat capsized on Wednesday.

At least a further 11 people have gone missing since 2014, including 10 thought to have drowned.

Most die in vehicle accidents or through hazardous conditions on vehicles such as lorries.

The most deadly incident was in 2019, when the bodies of 39 Vietnamese migrants - 29 men, two boys and eight women - were found in a refrigerator lorry in Essex.


Are the people who try to cross the Channel economic migrants or asylum seekers?

Some 98% of people who arrive after crossing the Channel in a small boat make a claim for asylum, according to evidence presented to a Home Affairs Select Committee in September 2020.

Where do asylum seekers come from and why do they want to come to the UK?

According to Home Office figures, most asylum seekers in the UK have come from Sub-Saharan Africa with nearly a quarter of a million (246,243) asylum applications having been received since 2001. This includes people from Somalia, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone.

Thousands of applications have also been received from people from the Middle East.

This includes asylum seekers from war-torn countries like Syria, Yemen and Iraq. In total the UK has received 187,232 asylum applications from the Middle East since 2001.

At a country level, the most asylum applications have come from people from Iran (68,530 applications), Afghanistan (65,066 applications) and Iraq (64,469 applications).


According to organisations working with asylum seekers, some people fleeing war-torn countries want to seek asylum in the UK, rather than other European countries, because they have family here or because they speak English.

Does the UK take in more refugees than other countries?

The UK has accepted far fewer refugees than many other countries. According to figures sourced from The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UK had 136,000 refugees and 84,000 asylum seekers as of mid-2021.

Turkey has accepted more refugees than any other country in the world, at approximately 3.7 million, and has a further 322,000 seeking asylum. This is followed by Uganda, which has accepted 1.5 million refugees and Pakistan which has 1.4 million.

In Western Europe, Germany, France, Sweden and Austria have all accepted more refugees under the UNHCR’s mandate than the UK.


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