WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
September 28 2022
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO

10,000 people have crossed the Channel in small boats so far this year

10,000 people have crossed the Channel in small boats so far this year

Approximately 10,000 people have arrived in the United Kingdom on small boats from across the Channel since January 2022, according to figures disclosed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Since New Years Day, 9,998 individuals have reached the UK after leaving the French coast in vessels such as dinghies, marking an increase in the number of annual crossings recorded in previous years. 28,526 people were noted to have made such journeys in 2021, compared to 8,466 individuals in 2020 and 1,842 in 2019. The figures for 2022 stand at more than double of what they were during the same period last year; a total of 79 migrants were also reportedly brought ashore at Dover by Border Force yesterday.

The MoD defines a ‘small boat’ as a vessel used by individuals who cross the English Channel ‘with the aim of gaining entry to the UK without a visa or permission to enter – either directly by landing in the UK or having been intercepted at sea by the authorities and brought ashore.’

Last week, the Government agreed to launch a public inquiry into the drowning of at least 27 people who attempted to cross the Channel in a small boat on November 24, 2021 amid concerns that their dinghy had capsized in British waters. The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, acknowledged that the current probe by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) was not sufficient and did not comply with the investigative duty under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Lawyers currently acting on behalf of the bereaved relatives have argued that there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the dinghy capsized in British territory, and have called for the public inquiry to be held prior to the conclusion of the internal MAIB probe. Maria Thomas, a solicitor at Duncan Lewis representing eight bereaved relatives, said: ‘The decision to conduct a full investigation is welcomed by the families, who have suffered unimaginable pain in the past six months as a result of not only losing their loved ones, but also from remaining in the dark regarding the events of the night, and not knowing whether it would ever be properly investigated. This commitment by the UK government to examine what happened will provide some comfort in what remains a difficult time for them.’

The disclosure of the latest MoD figures coincides with a period of mounting scrutiny of the government’s approach to Channel crossings. Last month, the Home Office officially withdrew its ‘pushback’ policy of forcing people in dinghies back to France days before a judicial review of the tactic brought by the PCS union, Care4Calais, Channel Rescue and Freedom From Torture was due to be heard in the High Court. A government spokesperson said similar tactics might be deployed in the future to combat the increasing rate of border crossings, but acknowledged that these measures would only be used after full consideration of all relevant factors.

‘It is right that we consider all safe and legal options to stop these unnecessary journeys, including turning boats around,’ said the representative. ‘As we have set out previously, this tactic fully complies with both domestic and international law, however, there are extremely limited circumstances when you can safely turn boats back in the Channel.’