Record number of people cross the Channel in small boats in first three months of 2024

Some 4,644 migrants crossed the Channel to the UK so far in 2024, a record for the first three months of a calendar year, provisional Home Office figures show. Political correspondent Libby Wiener on what this means for Rishi Sunak

More people crossed the English Channel to the UK by small boat between January and March 2024 than in the first three months of any other year.

About 338 people were detected crossing the English Channel to the UK on Tuesday, bringing the cumulative number of arrivals so far in 2024 to 4,644: a new record for the first three months of a calendar year, according to provisional figures from the Home Office.

The numbers mark a 23% increase from the same period during 2023, were 3,793 people arrived via the Channel.

The previous record for arrivals in the three months from January to March was 4,548 in 2022.

In response to the figures, Labour said it was “time to get a grip and restore order to the border” in the wake of the latest migrant Channel crossing figures.

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Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock: “Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Rishi Sunak keeps on telling the British people that small boat arrivals are coming down and his promise to stop the boats remains on track.

“Can he not see what is happening from inside his No. 10 bunker, or does he think we can’t see it for ourselves?"

Rishi Sunak made "stopping the boats" a key pledge of his premiership and has continually insisted his plan is working.

Children were among the migrants brought ashore in Dover, Kent, on Tuesday Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

Last week, Downing Street declared Mr Sunak’s administration was dealing with a “migration emergency” after a record day for crossings.

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.

The government’s Rwanda Bill remains stuck in parliamentary limbo after a series of further defeats in the Lords, with MPs not scheduled to debate it again until after Westminster returns from its Easter break.

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