Hundreds of migrants resume Channel crossings to UK, after 11-day hiatus

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Hundreds of migrants crossed the Channel from France to Britain in small boats on Sunday, the UK Ministry of Defense said, following an 11-day hiatus in the controversial arrivals.

The resumption in the journeys, thought to be due to a change in the weather, comes weeks after Britain announced contentious proposals to send those who cross the Channel thousands of miles away to Rwanda.

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The plans, which have been roundly criticized by rights groups and UK opposition parties, have come as the number of migrants crossing one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes has risen dramatically.

Sunday’s arrival of 254 people mean nearly 7,000 have reached the UK so far in 2022, more than three times the number recorded by this time last year, according to data compiled by Britain’s domestic Press Association news agency.

More migrants were seen being brought into the port of Dover, in southeast England, on Monday aboard lifeboats and Border Force vessels after being picked up in the Channel.

There appears to have been an 11-day break in the crossings from April 20 to 30 during a period of strong winds and choppy seas.

The journeys, in unsuitable and dangerous craft, were rare prior to 2019 but have since increased dramatically -- with 28,526 registered in 2021 -- and stoked political controversy.

Around 90 percent of the arrivals last year were male and three-quarters were men aged between 18 and 39.

They have raised pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government, whose voters often cite illegal immigration as one of their key issues.

Last week parliament passed its controversial Nationality and Borders Act, which introduces maximum life sentences for people smugglers blamed for facilitating irregular migration.
But it also imposes tougher jail terms for anyone arriving illegally in the country, which has raised fears it could be used against asylum-seekers and refugees.

Britain’s navy has also taken operational control of patrols and migrant interceptions in the Channel.

Meanwhile last month Johnson unveiled the much-criticized plans to send anyone entering the UK illegally, as well as those who have arrived illegally since January 1, to Rwanda.

The proposals to relocate tens of thousands of people in the coming years, which is set to be challenged in British courts, has been slammed by rights groups as “inhumane.”

The United Nations’ refugee agency was among those to voice strong opposition.

Read more: More than 28,000 migrants crossed Channel in small boats in 2021: UK

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