30,000 Small Boat Migrants Crossed English Channel to UK Last Year
Record Number of Illegal Immigrants Crossing the English Channel in 2023
In 2023, the number of illegal immigrants crossing the English Channel to the UK recorded the second highest in history. According to the UK Home Office, the number of small-boat migrants who arrived in the UK last year was 29,437.
Compared to 2022 (45,774), the number of immigrants decreased significantly but still recorded the second-highest number in history. According to the UK Home Office, about 20% of illegal immigrants who crossed the Channel were from Afghanistan. The following were Iran (12%), Turkey (11%), Eritrea (9%), and Iraq (9%).
Political Implications of the Refugee Crisis in the UK
UK-France Dispute Over Responsibility for Boat Refugees
Refugees crossing the English Channel from the European continent to the United Kingdom have become a key concern for the UK government. This issue has gained prominence due to the impending 2024 UK general election. Experts anticipate that the promises and policies about boat refugees will significantly influence voters’ sentiments. Rishi Sunak, the leader of the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has unequivocally declared his commitment to staunchly combat illegal immigration via the English Channel.
Eventually, in March last year, French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Sunak met and agreed on a pact to prevent boat refugees. According to the agreement at the time, the UK decided to support about 500 million euros (approximately $567 million) for strengthening patrols on the western beaches of France for the next three years.
In addition, the UK is also pushing for strong legislation to expel immigrants who have arrived in the country illegally—for example, a regulation to expel refugees illegally entering the UK from Rwanda. Although the UK Supreme Court dismissed the bill, the UK government led by the Conservative Party Prime Minister still maintains a position against illegal refugees. Last December, Prime Minister Sunak introduced a new bill, explaining that it is the “best thing we can get” to tackle illegal immigration.
By. Yoo Jeong Lim