At least 430 migrants crossed the English Channel to the UK on Monday, according to the UK Home Office, a new single-day record that comes just as Parliament considers plans to tighten Britain’s asylum system.
The previous daily record was 416, reached in September 2020, according to the British news agency PA.
According to the BBC, nearly 8,000 people on around 345 boats have reached the UK coast since the beginning of the year, despite the UK government’s pledge to make the immigration route impassable and its repeated calls for France to do more to combat the crossings.
Commander Dan O’Mahoney, who is in charge of the ‘illegal threat’ in the Channel, said the UK is experiencing “an unacceptable increase in small boat crossings of the Channel due to an increase in illegal immigration into Europe.”
“People should seek asylum in the first safe country they reach, and not risk their lives making these dangerous crossings. We continue to pursue the criminals behind these illegal crossings,” he said, quoted in a Home Office statement.
The new record comes as British MPs debate Boris Johnson’s home secretary Priti Patel’s asylum reform bill this week.
Presented by the minister as “fair but firm” but denounced by human rights groups, it aims to discourage illegal immigration and provides for different treatment of asylum seekers depending on whether they arrived in the country legally or illegally.
During debates in the House of Commons on Monday, former Prime Minister Theresa May (also a former home secretary) warned against sending asylum seekers to centres outside the UK while their claims are considered.
May said she had considered this option, but abandoned it because of “practical problems.”
The bill would increase the prison sentence for migrants seeking to enter the country illegally to four years from the current six months.
It would also raise the maximum sentence for human smugglers from the current 14 years to life imprisonment.
Belgium has also struggled with illegal and dangerous migration.
The Brussels court of appeals recently acquitted four people who hosted migrants in their homes and were charged with human trafficking, including two Belgian journalists.
The court gave reduced sentences to the migrants, saying that they had indeed been involved in human trafficking, but were also victims of trafficking themselves. They helped other migrants board trucks heading to Britain in return for payment, while they waited to reach the country, too.