Over 1,100 migrants crossed the English Channel on small boats on Friday and Saturday, the British Home Office has said. Some 410 people were prevented by French authorities from making the crossing.
A total of 624 people reached the United Kingdom on 23 small boats on Friday (October 8). Another 491 people traveling on 17 boats arrived on Saturday.
A total of 414 people were stopped by French patrols and brought back to France over the same two days – 300 on Friday and 114 on Saturday.
On Sunday French authorities said they had intercepted another 342 migrants who were attempting the crossing, according to AFP.
Friday’s arrivals amount to the fourth highest daily tally recorded, reports the BBC.
More than 17,000 migrants have made the crossing from France to Britain in small boats since the beginning of the year, more than double the figure for the whole of 2020. That's according to data compiled by the British news agency PA.
Some 3,879 migrants made the crossing in September, more than in any other previous month.
France accuses UK of withholding funds
After a visit to Calais, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Saturday said that "not one euro has been paid" of the £54 million (€63 million) in funds that the UK promised France to help stem migrant departures. The deal, announced in July this year, includes plans to double the number of police patrols on French beaches to prevent crossings.
"We are asking the British to keep their promises of financing because we are holding the border for them," Darmanin told AP.
The British home secretary, Priti Patel, had recently threatened to withhold the funding unless more people were stopped from reaching the UK.
Dan O'Mahoney, who heads the Home Office team looking to curb the number of migrants reaching the UK, said the government was "determined" to tackle what he called the "unacceptable rise in dangerous Channel crossings."
"Working with police and international partners, there have been nearly 300 arrests, 65 convictions related to small boat criminality and our targeted efforts have prevented more than 13,500 migrant attempts so far this year," O'Mahoney was quoted by news agency AFP as saying. At the same time he pointed out that "(t)his is a complicated issue requiring changes to our laws. The Government’s New Plan for Immigration provides a long term solution to fix the broken system and deliver the change required to tackle criminal gangs and prevent further loss of life."
Legislation to overhaul asylum system
Following Brexit the British government had pomised to overhaul its asylum system and regain control of the country's borders. The ruling Conservative party has proposed a "Nationality and Borders Bill" which dictates stricter jail terms for people smugglers.
The bill would also mean that anyone arriving in the country through an "illegal" route -- such as by small boat -- could have their asylum claim ruled as inadmissible and receive a jail sentence of up to four years. Those migrants and refugees would also have no access to public funds and their family members would be barred from joining them, reports the Guardian.
The UN refugee agency (UNHRC) has claimed the bill would would penalize most asylum seekers and create an asylum model that "undermines established international refugee protection rules and practices." The bill is expected to complete the committee stage in October, after which it will have to pass two houses of Parliament. The bill would then become law if a majority in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords voted in favor of it.