Small boat arrivals expected to rise this year: UK Border Force officials’ union

UK Border Force

LONDON: A union of Border Force officials in the UK have warned that the number of people arriving in small boats is expected to rise again this year after government figures reported a fall in migrants crossing the English Channel by about a third in 2023.

Last year, 29,437 migrants made the crossing, compared to 45,774 in 2022, according to the latest figures from the UK Home Office, but the number was the second-highest since 2018 — about 1,000 above the total in 2021.

The Immigration Services Union, representing border force officials, warned the latest lull was probably a “glitch” due to extremely poor weather in recent months.

The last crossing of 2023 was on December 16 when 55 people arrived from France in one boat, following which no further crossings were recorded due to heavy rain and high winds.

Lucy Moreton, the union’s professional officer, told the BBC that the “planning assumption for 2024 is that 2023 has been unusually low”.

She said that other “confounding factors”, particularly high winds, have made migrant crossing much more difficult for much of the year.

“But we have also had much larger boats, much more seaworthy boats, so the planning assumption is that this is a glitch,” she said, adding that the Border Force would need to continue to “resource itself” to deal with higher numbers in the future.

Migrants coming in small boats has been a major political issue in Britain with more than 45,000 migrants crossing the English Channel in that manner to reach the UK in 2022.

Ever since then, “stopping the boats” has been one of the top priorities of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government.

The government has also tried to send those migrants to Rwanda following an agreement with the African country.

But in a big setback to the government, the country’s Supreme Court in November last year rejected plans to send migrants to Rwanda as unlawful as it would put them at risk.

Despite a lot of criticism of its Rwanda policy at home and abroad, Sunak’s government insists it’s still committed to it.

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