Small boat crossings in English Channel hit record despite Sunak hailing fall

Rishi Sunak provides update on ‘stop the boats’ pledge

Rishi Sunak’s authority has been dealt another major blow this year, after official migrant crossing figures showed a record high number making the perilous journey, just weeks after the PM said his ‘Stop the Boats’ agenda was “starting to work”.

3,824 migrants came across the Channel in small boats, up on June 2022’s figure of 3,140.

In 2021, the figure was 2,177; 727 in 2020, 163 in 2019 and just four people in June 2018.

A month ago, Rishi Sunak delivered a major speech, insisting small boat crossings were down 20 percent since he unveiled his illegal crossings plan five months earlier.

However, he received criticism at the time as the fall had been caused by a windy first few months to 2023, which had driven crossings down.

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Nigel Farage warned Mr Sunak that his hubris would be undermined when the wind dropped, and said the fact numbers of migrants were up in Europe should have been a cause for concern in Downing Stree.

The record-high June figures include 155 migrants who arrived in three boats on Friday.

Records began five years ago.

Mr Sunak said stopping the boats was one of “the people’s priorities”, and vowed to “rebuild trust in politics through action, or not at all”.

Today, Mr Sunak’s spokesman said: “He stands by what he said at the time.”

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“We do have much further to go before we stop the boats but it’s right to highlight improvements when they take place.

“We do know that we would expect to see numbers fluctuate, particularly over the summer months when numbers do tend to be higher.

“We want to do more in terms of the Rwanda migration partnership which is why we’re seeking leave to appeal, but it’s equally why we want to do more on the ground with our French counterparts.”

Today, Tory discipline on immigration seemed to fracture as seven members of the Government signed a letter slamming the party’s record on controlling the borders.

The letter, setting out new proposals on how to secure Britain’s borders, criticised the Tory record and observed “we are now very far from our pledge to get the numbers below 2019 level”.

Labour MP Justin Madders said that a month ago: “I said Sunak’s cherry picking of statistics on small boat crossings might come back to bite him on the backside”.

“I didn’t realise that it would happen so quickly with the last month having the highest number of crossings for the month of June since records began!”

Fellow Labour MP Stephen Kinnock added: “The Prime Minister should stop the boast and start stopping the boats”.

Overall small boat crossings are slightly down in the first six months of 2023, but the following hot summer months could quickly see numbers rise.

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