The truth behind yesterday's extraordinary migrant crossing numbers - analysis by Mark White

Small boat crossings from France have continued in 2024.

Small boat crossings from France have continued in 2024.

Mark White

By Mark White

Published: 17/01/2024

- 15:51

Updated: 18/01/2024

- 07:37

In this GB News members-only article, Home and Security Editor Mark White assesses the reality of Britain's illegal migration crisis

No one ever expects to be reporting on eight small boat arrivals in the middle of January. Yet here we are with summertime levels of small boat launches from French beaches.

The issue at play here is the many months of appalling weather conditions in the English Channel which have prevented the criminal gangs from launching these flimsy vessels.

Anything over a 12 knot wind makes the crossing from France to the UK by sea pretty much impassable.

If you listen to the Prime Minister and other members of his cabinet, you’d be forgiven for believing the 36 per cent reduction in Channel migrant crossings last year was due to Rishi Sunak’s "Stop the Boats" policy. And in particular the threat that those arriving across the Channel will end up being sent to Rwanda.

In truth, it’s a much more complex picture in which the weather plays the predominant role.

There’s no doubt additional police patrols on the French side of the Channel have helped to scatter people smugglers and their human cargo over a much longer stretch of French coastline – and that in turn has hampered their ability to launch quite so many boats.

Already this year, the union representing Border Force officers has estimated that 35,000 Channel migrants are likely to cross to the UK in a best-case scenario.

In the worst-case scenario, it could be more than 50,000 according to the ISU which represents Border Force staff.

One thing is abundantly clear. Every time weather conditions in the Channel improve, the criminal gangs take advantage and push off as many small boats as they can manage.

2024 might well prove to be a year in which even fewer people cross the Channel illegally. But if that happens it’s much more likely to be down to the influence of mother nature rather than Rishi Sunak.

A Home Office spokesperson said the number of days last year in which the weather conditions were calm enough to allow small boat crossings was little changed from the year before.

The spokesperson said: "Our priority is to stop the boats, which is why we have taken robust action to crack down on vile people smuggling gangs, deter migrants from making dangerous crossings and, alongside our French counterparts, intercept vessels.

"This relentless action reduced crossings by 36 per cent last year, which saw similar weather conditions to 2022, and more than 26,000 attempts were prevented.

"The fact we have seen three devastating fatal incidents in three months highlights the unacceptable risks that migrants and criminal gangs are running in pursuing these dangerous, illegal and unnecessary crossing attempts."

You may like