The number of migrants arriving by boats in the United Kingdom from mainland Europe across the Channel dropped 36% last year, UK government data showed.
In 2023, the number of people arriving in small boats fell to 29,437 from 2022’s record of 45,775.
Crossings over the Channel, a major shipping lane, have been a challenge for the Conservative government in Britain.
What did the UK PM say?
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has prioritized halting these arrivals, promising last year to “stop the boats.”
“I am determined to end the burden of illegal migration on the British people,” Sunak said. “That is why we have taken action to stop the boats, return hotels to their local communities and deter those wanting to come here illegally from doing so.”
With general elections due this year, Sunak is looking to make good on his promise to bring down the high number of irregular arrivals, although last month, he said there was no “firm date” set for fulfilling this pledge.
“I am focused on delivering on my commitment to stop the boats and get flights off the ground to Rwanda,” Sunak said in a statement.
The government had planned to deter migrants from crossing by refusing asylum applications of those arriving without authorization and sending some to Rwanda.
That plan hit a roadblock after the UK Supreme Court ruled it illegal under international law.
Government credits action against small boats
Britain spends over €3.46 billion ($3.7 billion) annually on asylum processes, with significant costs for migrant housing.
The government cleared a backlog of 92,000 asylum cases by the end of 2023, processing over 112,000 cases with a 67% grant rate.
On Monday, the government credited its action against “small boats” as well as migrant return deals with countries such as Albania with the reduction of migrant arrival numbers.
According to Downing Street, in 2023, more than 24,000 were deported, while 246 arrests were made for human trafficking.
Meanwhile, the opposition Labour Party argues that Sunak has not fulfilled his promise and says his immigration policy is in chaos.
ss/kb (AFP, Reuters)