Escalating Crisis: 100,000 Migrants Cross the Channel in Five-and-a-Half Years

In the span of five-and-a-half years, more than 100,000 migrants have seemingly made their way across the English Channel, marking a critical issue that has unfolded since records were first maintained.


The journey through this crisis can be segmented into several distinct periods, each defined by key developments and responses.

2018: Escalation and Response

The crisis gained significant attention in December 2018 when Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, declared a “major incident” following a surge in small boat crossings.

This decision was prompted by a notable increase in attempted voyages, with over 221 migrants endeavoring to make the perilous journey since the beginning of November.

Responding to mounting concerns, Javid decided to station additional Border Force cutters in the Channel, reversing his initial stance that these cutters could attract more migrants.


2019: Collaborative Action and Tragedy

In January 2019, Javid, along with French counterpart Christophe Castaner, unveiled a collaborative action plan aimed at decreasing the number of successful crossings.

This initiative included funding for security equipment, enhanced patrols, intelligence sharing, and swift return operations.

Tragedy struck in August when an Iranian woman, Mitra Mehrad, became the first recorded migrant to drown during the crossing.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned migrants of the consequences and vowed to return those attempting the journey.

2020: Record Crossings and Countermeasures

July 2020 marked a significant milestone, with the highest daily number of migrants crossing the Channel – 180 individuals.


Home Secretary Priti Patel and French interior minister Gerald Darmanin announced a joint intelligence cell to counter human smuggling gangs.

The situation worsened as a new record of 416 migrants crossed in a single day in September, prompting the Home Office to consider deploying jet skis.

The deployment of additional resources was accompanied by tragedies, including the loss of a family of five in October.

2021: Controversy and Legal Battles

In March 2021, Patel proposed offshore processing of asylum claims in third countries, while record numbers of migrants continued to cross.

Later in the year, Patel and Darmanin pledged to prevent all crossings and make the Channel route unviable.


Despite these efforts, tragedies persisted, leading to diplomatic tensions between the UK and France.

The High Court validated the legality of the Rwanda policy while ordering reconsideration of the first eight deportees’ cases.

2022: Mixed Responses and Continuing Challenges

Efforts to control the crisis remained controversial.

Plans to deport migrants to Rwanda faced legal setbacks, and sweeping asylum reforms were enacted under the Illegal Migration Act.

Despite these measures, challenges persisted, with growing asylum backlogs and criticism of conditions.


2023: Heightened Efforts and Ongoing Concerns

Early in 2023, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declared tackling the migrant crisis a priority.

The government pressed forward with efforts to remove migrants and unveiled plans for housing asylum seekers in various settings.While some policy changes were praised, criticism emerged over comments made by officials linking migrants to criminality.

On August 10, new arrivals pushed the total number of Channel crossings past 100,000.

Reports hinted at internal disagreements over the UK’s commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights, further highlighting the complexities of the ongoing crisis.

Throughout these years, the Channel migrant crisis has been marked by evolving policies, legal battles, tragic incidents, and a constant struggle to manage the situation while adhering to human rights obligations.


The crisis remains a multifaceted challenge that has tested governmental responses and sparked debates over immigration and humanitarian concerns.


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