Why are migrants crossing the English Channel and what happens when they reach the UK?

RISING numbers of migrants are trying to cross the English Channel in dinghies and other small boats.

About 65 – desperate for a new life-made the trip on Sunday, August 9 after at least 150 did so on Saturday, August 8.

It took the total number to more than 565 in just four days.

Migrants told The Sun that they believed the risk of dying on a small boat was worth it if they were to achieve their aim of reaching Britain – which some labelled “heaven”.

An inflatable dinghy carrying around 20 Syrian migrants was met by Border Force off the coast of Dover on Monday, August 10.

The packed vessel had been making its way across the English Channel with those on board seen waving and smiling on their journey.

This comes despite Home Secretary Priti Patel's vow last year that the crossings would have become an "infrequent phenomenon" by now.

How many people are trying to cross the English Channel?

The number of migrants to complete the English Channel crossing this year hit 3,950 – more than double the figure for the whole of 2019.

There was a new record of at least 235 arrivals on August 6.

The actual number of people attempting the crossing is higher, but some boats are intercepted by the French authorities before they reach British waters.

Unscrupulous smugglers often charge thousands for a spot on a small dinghy before being shoved out in the direction of Dover.

Why has there been an increase in recent weeks?

More than 1,100 migrants arrived into the UK in July, a figure higher than numbers from May and June combined.

Taking advantage of a spell of hot weather and calm sea conditions, more than 500 migrants have made it to British shores since Thursday, August 6, many in overloaded rubber dinghies.

An inquiry has been launched into the reasons behind the huge increase in Channel crossings by migrants.

How many migrants arrive in the UK each year?

In 2019, some 677,000 people moved to the UK as long-term immigrants, for reasons such as work or study.

There were also 49,000 asylum applications, BBC News reports.

This means the 4,000 unauthorised Channel arrivals are equal to less than 1 per cent of all immigrants last year.

Pro-migrant charities accuse the government of over-reacting to the crossings for political gain, when the numbers are tiny compared with the flows of migrants routinely arriving in Mediterranean countries like Greece and Italy.

Where do the migrants come from?

Many of the migrants come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and countries in Africa, fleeing poverty, persecution or war.

Recent arrivals have included entire families from Yemen, Eritrea, Chad, Egypt, Sudan and Iraq.

Some stand a chance of being granted asylum, while others, considered illegal economic migrants, are unlikely to be granted the right to remain in Britain.

Why are migrants crossing the English Channel?

Migrants are crossing the English Channel to escape from their countries which are enraged by war, poverty or political instability.

Organised crime gangs have profited from smuggling people from Asia and Africa across Europe over the last 20 years.

In the case of refugees, it is very difficult to apply for asylum to the UK unless you are already in the country.

Mohammed Yousef, 34, who has been in the camp for several weeks after arriving from Sudan, said: “I’ve already risked so much and been through so much danger to get here.

"It’s all to get to the UK. It’s a brilliant place. We all want to enter the UK.”

Mohammed Ahmed, 36, worked as a mechanical engineer in Sudan and is hoping to carry out the same role in Britain.

What happens to them when they arrive in the UK?

When they arrive in the UK, migrants are usually taken by the UK Border Force to short-term holding centres.

Experts say the majority of those crossing the Channel seem to have "strong" claims to asylum, with many coming from Iran, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

If a migrant makes an asylum claim and has no money, they might be placed in accommodation somewhere in the UK.

The Home Office pays for the claim while the application is considered.

Other migrants might be kept in detention ahead of a plan to be sent back to mainland Europe.

How many migrants are sent back?

Since January 2019 at least 5,800 people have entered the UK on small boats and about 155 migrants have been returned to mainland Europe.

The Home Office blamed current regulations – which determine where an asylum-seeker's claim is heard – for the comparatively low number of people to have been returned to Europe.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said 166 more migrants were due to be returned.

Officials have asked Europe to receive almost 600 migrants or more.

What is the government doing about the crossings?

Boris Johnson has branded migrants' Channel crossings a "very bad and stupid and dangerous and criminal thing to do" as he hinted at changing laws to tackle the crisis.

The government has said planes are due to return migrants to Europe, with a flight taking up to 20 on Wednesday, August 12.

Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts Chris Philp said: "I share the anger and frustration of the public at the appalling number of crossings we have seen.

"The crossings are totally unacceptable and unnecessary as France is a safe country.

"We work closely with France and I will be in Paris early next week to seek to agree stronger measures with them, including interceptions and returns. This situation simply cannot go on."

On Tuesday, August 11, Mr Philp is due to hold the latest round of talks with French counterparts in Paris.

Priti Patel said the number of migrants crossing the Channel was "unacceptably high".

She said she was working to prevent the boats from leaving France's shores in the first place.

Dan O’Mahoney, an expert in ship-to-ship operations, has been put in charge of a massive new mission to stop dinghies and other small vessels sailing to Britain’s shores from France.

The ex-commando is under orders to collaborate closely with the French to draw up stronger joint enforcement measures.

Officially known as the “Clandestine Channel Threat Commander”, he takes on a new role leading the UK’s response to the crisis.

Refugee Action is calling for the Government to make a long-term commitment to resettling refugees.

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