9,818 people have illegally come to the UK in hundreds of boats after crossing the Channel from safe countries since the start of 2018, according to an estimate based on a combination of Home Office releases and media reports.
A number of people have tragically died attempting to enter this way. Those thinking of making the journey should not do so. The only responsible thing for the government to do is to close this route down now.
Our Tracker shows that 7,684 people have been detected crossing since the start of 2020 in around 500 boats. This does not include undetected crossings. You can analyse 2020’s reported incidents below in Annex A. Our Channel Tracking Station is unique in enabling users to do this.
Figure 1: Reported and detected arrivals by illegal Channel crossing (Source: Home Office data / media reports).
To give a sense of the rising scale, more people crossed in just one month – September 2020 (more than 1,900) – than in all of 2019 (1,835). We are the only think tank holding the government to account over this (if you can help, please click here).
Nearly six times as many people entered the UK via this illegal route between January and 24 October 2020 compared to the same period in the previous year – 7,684 compared with 1,373 during the same period in 2019 (see Annex below for breakdowns) – also see media report.
416 people illegally entered after 28 boats brought them over on 2 September, the worst-day so far (see media report). The second highest total was recorded on 22 September – 393 illegal arrivals in 26 boats (see report).
ESTIMATE OF THE NUMBERS SINCE THE START OF 2018
As the release of official figures on this has been sporadic at best, the following estimates are based on both specific information released by the Home Office, and other bodies, and on individual media reports:
299 people successfully crossed the Channel (see Home Office figures, September 2020).
1,835 people successfully crossed the Channel (see Home Office figures, September 2020).
7,684 people have been reported (either by the Home Office or media) as already having crossed this year. This is based on a combination of Home Office figures for Quarters 1 and 2 which put the total for those time periods at (465 for Q1 + 2,012 for Q2 =) 2,477, then adding the total of those detected arriving (as revealed by media reports or sporadic Home Office releases) for individual days in the period from the start of July to 24 October. This comes to 5,207. For more on this breakdown, see below.
Total: (reported total since start of 2018 to 24 October 2020) = 9,818
Figure 2: Detected arrivals by Channel crossing by month in 2020 so far. This graph is indicative only. It is based on media reports alone as the more authoritative Home Office data is not broken down by month. The Home Office figures indicate a higher number of arrivals.
The crossings continue even after a total of £114 million of taxpayers’ money was paid to France since 2015 to stop illegal immigration (see short briefing paper, updated 19 June). We are clearly not getting value for money.
The government is also spending around £400 million of taxpayers’ money each year on ‘free’ accommodation for 60,000 asylum seekers and failed claimants over the next decade (total of £4 billion in the ten years from mid-2019 – see National Audit Office summary). The number of people housed has TRIPLED since 2012 when it was around 20,000.
The number of people in such accommodation has increased recently from just below 50,000, in part as a result of measures put in place in the midst of the Covid pandemic but also due to the increase in illegal Channel crossings.
More than 5,000 people are being housed in what is called ‘initial’ accommodation, including in hotels, hostels and even disused Army barracks near Folkestone – with the number in such housing having risen five-fold since last year (for more read this piece).
The incentives are skewed and seemed geared towards encouraging, rather than discouraging, illegal and potentially deadly trips (also see this Home Office page telling people what they will get if they claim asylum).
Payments and the offer of free housing for those eligible while an asylum claim is being processed (and for thousands of failed claimants) may serve to encourage people to attempt the dangerous and needless journey.
98% of those arriving claim asylum once landed, says the Home Office, even though they are travelling from a safe country from which protection is not required. The asylum route should be reserved only for the truly needy.
Instead of the boats being stopped, many people are brought to the UK by the Border Force (or Coastguard) after being encountered the Channel. French vessels have even been seen shepherding unsafe boats into UK waters and abandoning them.
What do the UK public think of these illegal crossings?
Over 70% of the public say illegal Channel crossings are a ‘serious problem’ – including 97% of Conservative voters (YouGov, August 2020) – and more than 60% say those crossing should not be allowed to settle in the UK (see media report).
Over 60% also say those arriving illegally in this manner should be removed (Ipsos, Autumn 2019). 60% also say they think the government is not taking sufficient measures to stop the problem (2020 Deltapoll – see summary).
The government’s failure to stop this may help explain why the share of the public saying the government is handling immigration badly has risen to nearly three-quarters (71%) going up by a very large amount since March (YouGov).
What do the goverment’s ‘supporters’ have to say about the issue? A poll conducted by Conservative Progress of more than 10,000 Conservative voters showed that 93% percent believed those who entered the UK illegally should not be allowed to apply for asylum (see media report).
Why aren’t more illegal Channel migrants and failed asylum seekers removed from the country? For analysis of this topic, see separate piece.
Breakdown of reported arrivals during 2020 so far
- 7,684 people have been detected crossing the Channel illegally so far this year. Over 500 boats are thought to have crossed this year, while the number of people per boat appears to be increasing (from 7.8 in early 2019 to 12.3 in September 2020 – see media report).
October: Total reported arrivals during month so far = 464
- 24 October – 33 people illegally cross the Channel (see media report).
- 19 October – 100 people are reported by the media to have arrived via this unauthorised and deadly route (see report).
- 18 October – 62 people illegally cross in an unknown number of boats (see media report). However, the French Navy intercepted 11 boats containing a total of 191 migrants trying to get across the English Channel (see report).
- 17 October – 170 people illegally cross to the UK from the Continent on 12 boats (see media report). A further 222 were reportedly prevented from crossing by the French authorities.
- 16 October – Border Force brought one boat carrying 27 people to Dover (see media report).
- 14 October – The British Army was forced to stop a live shooting exercise on a military range today after a group of 16 migrants landed a 9ft speedboat in the middle of target practice. They were seen by a spotter heading towards shore at Lydd Ranges near Dungeness on the remote Romney Marshes in Kent having travelled 21 miles across the English Channel. The boat made landfall inside a designated danger zone after continuing to travel towards the site following a ‘check fire’ being called, which saw the reservist unit of British Army soldiers temporarily stop firing (see media report).
- 10 -13 October – we await information of whether there were any detected crossings or not.
- 9 October – 56 migrants in three boats picked up by UK authorities and taken to Dover UK in three boats (see news report).
- 1 to 8 October – No information about this period has been published by the media or authorities.
September: Total = at least 1,974 (more in this month than during all of 2019, i.e. 1,835).
- 30 September – 23 people are reported crossing on two boats (see report).
- 29 September – 48 people illegally cross in three boats (see media report here and here).
- 22 September – 393 people are detected illegally crossing in 26 boats (see media report). French authorities say they took 88 migrants in seven boats back to France (see report).
- 20 September – UK Border Force Hunter vessel picks up 20 migrants and took them ashore to Dover, Kent (see media report)
- 16 September – 26 people arrive in two boats (see report).
- 15 September – 151 migrants arrive in 11 boats (see media report). 11 people were also returned to Calais after their boat got into difficulty in the Channel. The French authorities prevented three crossings involving 36 people on Tuesday, according to the Home Office (see report).
- 14 September – 165 migrants arrive in 12 boats. The French prevented 7 boats from crossing involving 54 people (see media report).
- 11 September – Border Force and Coastguard deal with 27 boats involving at least 319 migrants who arrived in Kent (see media report). Other reports suggest that the Coastguard ‘confirm[ed]’ as many as 52 boats arrived.
- 10 September – Authorities deal with incident/s involving at least 17 people (see media report and media report).
- 9 September – One boat crosses with unconfirmed number of occupants (see media report).
- 8 September – At least one boat is dealt with by the Home Office – carrying at least 7 occupants (see media report).
- 7 September – 223 people ‘picked up’ on 18 small boats. A further eight boats with 106 people on board were stopped by the French authorities from making the crossing, a Home Office spokesman said (see media report).
- 6 September – 21 migrants arrive on two boats (see media report).
- 3-5 September – The media does not report any incidents over this period.
- 2 September – 416 migrants arrive in 28 boats, far surpassing the previous daily record of 235 migrants in early August (see media report).
- 1 September – 18 boats arrive with more than 145 occupants (see media report).
August: Total for month = 1,468
- 28-31 August – Four days of bad weather make conditions more difficult for crossings.
- 27 August – 26 people arrive in three boats (see media report).
- 22-26 August – We await updates from the government / media.
- 21 August – Home Office deal with one incident involving 5 people from Chad and Sudan (see media report).
- 20 August – 8 migrants brought to Dover in one boat. They purport to be from Nigeria, Guinea, Gambia and Sierra Leone (see media report).
- 19 August – 164 migrants arrive in Kent in eight boats (see media report).
- 17 August – Two boats carrying 33 people arrive in the UK via the Channel (see media report).
- 16 August – 112 migrants arrve in eight boats (see media report).
- 15 August – 65 people arrive in five boats (see media report).
- 14 August – 48 people arrive in four boats (see media report).
- 13 August – Five boats carrying 89 people were picked up (see media report).
- 12 August – 71 people in six boats brought to UK (see media report).
- 11 August – Another 96 people in seven boats crossed the Channel (see media report).
- 10 August – 18 migrants arrive in a boat (see media report).
- 9 August – 65 people arrive (see media report).
- 8 August – 151 people come in 15 boats (see media report).
- 7 August – 146 people arrive in 17 boats (see media report).
- 6 August – 235 migrants get to the UK in one day – a new record (see media report and media report).
- 5 August – At least 13 migrants arrive (see media reports here and here).
- 4 August – Eight boats carrying 120 migrants arrive (see media report here).
- 3 August – At least 3 migrants from Sudan found in a boat off Ramsgate (see media report).
- 1 August – Unknown number of migrants enter the UK by small boat, including at St Margaret’s Bay, Kent (see video footage).
July: Total for month = 1,301
- 31 July – Nine boats carrying 96 migrants cross the Channel. The occupants of the boats presented themselves as Iranian, Syrian, Iraqi, Eritrean, Kuwaiti, Afghani, and Sudanese (see media report).
- 30 July – 202 migrants reached the UK – a then-record (see media report).
- 23 July – 86 migrants reach the UK in eight boats (seee media report).
- 22 July – 43 migrants arrive on four boats (see media report). They described themselves as Egyptian, Algerian, Iranian, Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Sudanese and Pakistani nationals.
- 21 July – 159 migrants cross in 13 boats (see media report).
- 19 July – 200 migrants cross in the worst-ever day for crossings. They included someone trying to reach in a pedalo stolen from a French beach. The migrants, in about 40 vessels, were met by Border Force, backed up by the RNLI and police (see media report).
- 18 July – Another 65 migrants get to the UK in five incidents (see media report). The Home Office said the latest migrants presented themselves as being from a number of nationalities including Eritrean, Syrian, Iranian, Gambian, Bissau-Guinean and Malian..
- 17 July – Nine migrant boats carrying 137 people were met by the Border Force in the English Channel (see news report).
- 15 July – A total of 85 migrants were helped ashore by Border Force in six incidents in the Channel (see news report).
- 13 July – 32 migrants arrive via this illegal route in four small boats (see news report).
- 12 July – 360 illegal immigrants were caught attempting to cross on this day, the Home Office confirmed. A then-record 180 were able to get across’ (see news report).
- 11 July – 6 migrants come to the UK via the Channel (see new report).
- 7 July – 10 migrants brought to Dover early in the morning. They were understood to be Somali, Sudanese and Yemeni (see news report).
Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 total = (465 + 2,012 =) 2,477 (see Home Office figures, September 2020).
Quarter 2 sub-total = Home Office figures released on 3 September 2020 indicate the Quarter 2 total was 187 more than the sum of reported incidents below. The Home Office total for Q2 = 2,012. We take this official figure as the basis of our above estimate, while continuing to include a summary of individual incidents below (see Home Office figures, September 2020).
June: Total for month as recorded by individual reported incidents = 587
- 26 June – 99 migrants arrive in eight boats. Among them are Syrians and Iraqis (see media reports here and here).
- 24 June – 82 migrants in six boats were brought to the UK by Border Force after being met in the Channel. Those onboard the boats presented themselves as Iranian, Somalian, Syrian, Yemeni, Kuwaiti, Afghan, Egyptian, Indian, Iraqi. There were also individuals from Togo and Niger (see news report).
- 21 June – 28 migrants in two dinghies and a kayak were brought to the UK by Border Force after they crossed the Channel illegally from a safe country in Northern Europe. There were 24 males and four females. They were reported to be Sudanese, Iranian, Kuwaiti, Iraqi, Syrian and Ethiopian (see media report).
- 18 June – An unconfirmed figure of 30 more people are brought to the UK by Border Force after being found in two small boats in the Channel (see media report).
- 17 June – 42 people were brought to the Kent ports after Border Force vessels went to meet three small boats that were illegally crossing the Channel. They gave their nationalities as Afghan, Kuwaiti, Iranian, Iraqi, Yemini, Syrian and Turkish (see news report).
- 15/16 June – 70 people brought into the Port of Dover by the Border Force after they crossed the Channel (see media report). They arrived in a spate of four incidents. A number of those arriving gave their nationalities as Cote D’Ivorian, Guinean, Kuwaiti, Iranian, Iraqi, Etritrean, Albanian, Sudanese and South Sudanese.
- 14 June – Border Force meets two boats carrying 17 migrants (see media report).
- 11 June – At least 8 migrants brought ashore after boat crossings. The Home Office has yet to confirm the number or nationalities. We will keep this updated if more information is released (see media report).
- 10 June – 44 migrants come including four people on two windsurfing boards tied together . They were reported to be Iranian, Iraqi, Yemeni, Afghani and Syrian nationals (see media report).
- 3 June – 167 come in one day, at that time a new record number for one 24-hour period (see media report). On this day, the largest boat so far seen contained 64 people (48 men and 16 women), which came in to land at Samphire Hoe beach near Dover (see media report).
May: Total for month as recorded by individual reported incidents = 665
- 27 May – 60 migrants brought ashore yesterday after being intercepted in the Channel in four incidents (see media report).
- 26 May – Boats and kayak carry 80 people across Channel (see media report).
- 22 May – 13 people came to the UK via this route (see media report).
- 20 May – 64 migrants made it across the Channel in five boats (see media report).
- 17 May – a further 35 people were picked up in three boats (see media report).
- 16 May – 90 people brought to Dover by Border Force after they crossed in six boats (see media report).
- 13/14 May – Another 14 migrants reach Dover (see media report).
- 10 May – 17 migrants brought here after being encountered by the Border Force off the Kent coast. The Home Office said there were 11 men and six women on board who presented themselves as Iraqi nationals (see media report).
- 9 May – The Home Office picked up a further 82 migrants, seventy of whom were aboard inflatable boats, while 12 men were found at Dungeness on the Kent coast (see media report).
- 8 May – A record 145 migrants were brought to Dover after making the perilous journey across the English Channel. This is believed to be a new single-day record after 102 were picked up on February 7. Those picked up were Iranian, Iraqi, Kuwaiti, and Afghan nationals (see media report).
- 4 May – 16 migrants brought here after being encountered of the Kent coast by the Border Force (see media report).
- 3 May – 49 migrants were brought here after being encountered by the Border Force off the Kent coast (see media report)
April: Total for month as recorded by individual reported incidents = 458
- 27 April – 90 migrants brought here after being encountered in Channel (see media report).
- 25 April – 35 migrants brought here after being encountered in the Channel (see media report).
- 24 April – 76 migrants were brought to Dover by the UK Border Force (see media report).
- 17 April – 73 migrants cross the Channel. Those landing in Dover were given face masks amid concerns about reports of a coronavirus outbreak in migrant camps in Calais (BBC News).
- 9 April – A boat with 16 migrants brought here after being encountered in Dover area (BBC News).
- 7 April – 63 migrants in four boats brought to Dover (BBC News)
- 4 April – Iranian, Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Syrian and Yemeni nationals were among the 53 people brought here after trying to cross the Channel. They were all taken ashore where they underwent medical checks and were passed to immigration officials, a government spokesman said. With the arrival of British Summer Time, such crossings were expected to become more frequent from now until the late autumn (see report).
- 2 April – 52 migrants, including five children, brought here after being encountered in the Dover area (see report).
Quarter 1 sub-total = Home Office figures released on 3 September 2020 indicate the Quarter 1 total was 49 less than the sum of reported incidents below. The Home Office total for Q1 = 465. We take this official figure as the basis of our estimate, while continuing to include a summary of individual incidents below (see Home Office figures, September 2020).
March: Total for month as recorded by individual reported incidents = 228 (and 136 after lockdown on 23 March)
- 27 March – Four small boats carrying 41 migrants were brought here after being encountered in the Channel (BBC News).
- 25 March – 95 migrants brought to Kent after crossing. They included Iranian, Iraqi, Afghan or Kuwaiti nationals. They were among more than 160 migrants, in six boats, who were caught crossing the Channel as fewer French patrols and warmer weather prompted an upsurge in attempts. 74 of those who attempted the crossing were caught by French authorities and returned to Boulogne (The Times).
- 23 March – Lockdown measures put in place in the UK to tackle Covid-19
- 19 March – A total 39 migrants in three boats were stopped in vessels in the English Channel. Among them were said to be Iranian and Iraqi nationals (see media report).
- 17 March – 25 migrants brought here after crossing the English Channel (see report).
- 4 March – 28 people, in two boats (27 of them men), were brought here by the Border Force and taken to Dover where they were assessed medically and handed over to immigration officials (see media report)
February: Total for month as recorded by individual reported incidents = 192
- 7 February – 102 people brought here after being encountered in the English Channel – the highest number ever at that point since over 80 people arrived in one day in mid-2019. Five boats contained people said to be from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria (Sky News).
- 6 February – 90 migrants were brought here after being encountered in the Dover area (in eight boats) while trying to reach the UK. The Home Office said all of those found, apart from the group detained by Kent Police, were taken to Dover where they were medically assessed before being transferred to immigration officials to be interviewed. They were said to be of Syrian, Yemeni, Egyptian, Iraqi, Senegalese, Malian and Guinean descent (see media report).
January: Total for month as recorded by individual reported incidents = 94
- January – 94 migrants were brought to the UK after making the attempted crossing between 20 – 27 January, according to figures from the UK and French authorities (see media report).
Unknown dates during the period January to June 2020: 253
- Home Office figures released in early September suggest that a total of 2,477 people arrived during Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 of 2020, meaning that 253 people appear to have arrived during incidents on unknown dates in addition to 2,224 reported arrivals in the reported incidents specified above.