Britain’s looming departure from the European Union has led to a significant increase in the number of migrants attempting to enter Britain on dangerous small boats Border Force officials have warned.
The general secretary of the Immigration Service Union, Lucy Moreton, said that attempted small boat crossings into the UK have “massively” increased over recent weeks as Britain’s 31st January departure date from the European Union draws nearer.
It is believed that people smugglers have capitalised on the Brexit process by suggesting to migrants that there will be some kind of permanent closure of British borders after Brexit. This has led to a large increase in those willing to make life-threatening journeys across the Channel, in the hope of reaching British shores before Britain’s departure from the EU.
Just on New Year’s Eve, 43 adults were rescued from small boats before being taken to Dover.
…attempted small boat crossings into the UK have “massively” increased over recent weeks as Britain’s 31st January departure date from the European Union draws nearer
The Christmas season is invariably a time when there is an increase in clandestine migration. Still, Ms Moreton stated that she has never seen such a dramatic increase in small boat crossings.
“The numbers have increased massively in the last couple of weeks. We do normally see an increase in clandestine migration over Christmas – that’s been a pattern for decades. But this is the first time that we’ve seen this quite so dramatically in small boats”.
A risky journey many are willing to take
There is a general perception that sea crossings are the optimal route into the UK, a perception that has been amplified by increased media coverage around the issue. In spite of the risks, more and more migrants are willing to take the journey and, increasingly, without the assistance of criminal people smugglers.
Ms Moreton said:
“As it becomes more and more successful it’s more reported in the media, we’re now starting to see people that we think are trying to do this on their own. There’s the gentleman in flippers, two in a kayak, that type of thing.”
In January of 2019, the UK increased security along the French coast at a cost of £6m. Whilst this has led to an increase in the numbers of migrants intercepted by French authorities, the number of those who have managed to get through to the UK has risen sharply.
It is believed that people smugglers have capitalised on the Brexit process
It is estimated that nearly 1,900 migrants attempted the English Channel sea crossing in 2019, a figure which is six times larger than in 2018.
As Britain prepares for its withdrawal from the European Union, it seems likely that the number of migrants willing to take the dangerous journey across the Channel will only intensify.
What does the future hold?
Boris Johnson, emboldened by an extremely healthy Conservative majority, has vowed to impose stricter controls on immigration, including the introduction of an Australian-style immigration points system, and tighter restrictions on low-skilled workers.
Whether Johnson’s commitment to more stringent immigration controls will have any effect on the willingness of migrants to make these perilous journeys on small boats after Brexit remains to be seen.
Many migrants believe that hazardous journeys across the Channel are their best chance of reaching the UK and, potentially, receiving a form of immigration status.
The unfortunate truth is that those fleeing persecution and violence are likely to keep embarking on these journeys, despite the risks.