The RNLI was called out 200 times to pick up migrants from small boats in the English Channel last year, GB News can reveal.
The revelation comes amid growing criticism from some that lifeboats and Border Force vessels are being increasingly used as a “glorified taxi service”.
UK officials say that under international maritime laws, they are required to respond to sightings of small migrant boats in the busy shipping lane, once those dinghies enter British waters.
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, onboard a Border Force vessel, following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Monday January 2, 2023. Gareth Fuller
But the rapidly growing number of small boats making the crossing is putting increasing strain on the UK’s maritime rescue services.
His Majesty’s Coastguard has confirmed the number of callouts in 2022 after a Freedom of Information Request from local activist Steve Laws, who documents small boat arrivals and other asylum seeker issues.
In response, HM Coastguard said: “Of the confirmed incidents recorded by HMCG where persons were rescued from small boats in the English Channel in the year 2022, 200 of those incidents were recorded as having an RNLI asset associated with them.”
RNLI lifeboats can carry between 50 and 100 people.
At the lower end of the scale, it suggests that lifeboat crews may have picked up at least 10,000 people from the Channel last year.
Across the whole a 2022, a record 45,756 people crossed the English Channel in small boats.
GB News can confirm that so far this year, just over 2,000 people have crossed, after more than 200 arrived in small boats yesterday and this morning.
Sources have said that Home Office officials have estimated double the number of Channel migrants who arrived last year could make the crossing in the year ahead, if weather conditions are broadly favourable in the months ahead.