Sunak insists ‘stop the boats’ plan working amid 17% hike in Channel crossings

Rishi Sunak insisted his plan to “stop the boats” was working as figures showed Channel crossings so far this year are already higher than in the first three months of 2023.

The Prime Minister defended the Government’s efforts despite the number of crossings in 2024 tracking slightly ahead of recent years.

Downing Street declared Mr Sunak’s administration was dealing with a “migration emergency” after a record day for crossings. Some 514 people made the journey in 10 boats on Wednesday, making this the busiest day since the start of the year.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
More than 800 migrants crossed the Channel in three days this week (Gareth Fuller/PA)

This is 17% higher than the 3,683 people who had arrived as of March 21 2023, which means crossings this year have already exceeded the 3,793 recorded in the first quarter of last year, PA news agency analysis of provisional Home Office data shows.

The number of crossings so far this year is 25% higher than the total at this stage in 2022 (3,442), while the figure for January-March that year was a record 4,548.

The equivalent number of arrivals to the 2024 running total was not reached last year until April 5, while in 2022 it took until March 28 to reach this number.

(PA Graphics)

Speaking to reporters in Derbyshire on Friday, Mr Sunak said he was “determined to stop the boats”, adding: “Our plan is working, the numbers last year were down by a third.

“That’s never happened before, that shows that we are making progress.”

The UK needs flights to send migrants to Rwanda as a “deterrent” to “finish the job”, he added.

Rishi Sunak visit to Derbyshire
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a local elections campaign launch at a bus depot in Heanor, Derbyshire on Friday (Darren Staples/PA)

Asked why he was waiting another three weeks to push the Rwanda legislation through Parliament, Mr Sunak said: “When I got this job as Prime Minister, I set out five priorities. One of them was to stop the boats, I think that this is really important for our country.

“The current situation is simply unfair and unsustainable.

“People should not be able to jump the queue, come here illegally, put pressure on local services, undermine our sense of fairness and ultimately put their lives at risk as they are exploited by gangs.”

Last year 29,437 migrants were recorded arriving in the UK after crossing the Channel, down 36% on a record 45,774 arrivals in 2022.

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