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Rishi Sunak is still confident he can ‘stop the boats’ despite more than 5,000 migrants crossing the Channel already this year – as No10 blames the weather for an increase in numbers


Rishi Sunak is still confident he can fulfil his pledge to ‘stop the boats’ despite more than 5,000 migrants having crossed the Channel to Britain already this year.

Downing Street insisted the PM remained convinced he would tackle the migrant crisis in the face of a record number of arrivals in the first three months of 2024.

Number 10 partly blamed the weather for a surge in the number of people crossing the Channel, with nearly 800 having made the journey over the Easter weekend. 

A total of 791 migrants were detected crossing the Channel on Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday, according to provisional figures from the Home Office.

Some 349 people crossed on Saturday, with a further 442 spotted on Sunday, although there were no further arrivals detected yesterday.

It took the total number of people making the journey this year to 5,435.

Even before Saturday’s crossings, 2024 had already see a record high number of migrant crossings in the first three months of a year.

This has put Mr Sunak under fresh pressure to meet his promise to ‘stop the boats’ – which he made one of his five main priorities as PM – ahead of the general election.

He is still yet to see migrant deportation flights to Rwanda take off despite having made the asylum scheme a key plank of his plans to deal with Channel crossings.

Rishi Sunak is still confident he can fulfil his pledge to 'stop the boats' despite more than 5,000 migrants having crossed the Channel to Britain already this year.

Rishi Sunak is still confident he can fulfil his pledge to ‘stop the boats’ despite more than 5,000 migrants having crossed the Channel to Britain already this year.

A total of 791 migrants made the crossing on Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday, bringing this year's total to 5,435

A total of 791 migrants made the crossing on Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday, bringing this year’s total to 5,435

The previous record high figure for migrant crossings between January to March was 4,548 in 2022, with 3,793 arrivals in the first quarter of last year. 

Asked today whether the PM was still confident of meeting his ‘stop the boats’ pledge, a No10 spokeswoman said: ‘Yes, as we have said before the Easter recess, the most important thing that we can do to fundamentally break the model of the criminal gangs is to get our Rwanda partnership up and running.

‘So, we want to see that happen and get flights off the ground, and we know the impact that a successful deterrent can have.

‘But at the same time we also continue to work with partners to build on the progress that we saw last year with reduction by a third on the previous year.’

Addressing the increase in the number of people arriving by small boats compared with the first three months of last year, the spokeswoman added: ‘We have seen increases and we know that criminal gangs will seek to exploit opportunities and weather.

‘And we know that also French police are facing increasing violence and disruption on the ground on French beaches.

‘We need to keep stepping up our efforts and adapting to the gangs who continually adapt their own tactics.

‘But that’s why alongside continuing that work we have to fundamentally break the business model, and that’s what the Rwanda partnership will do.’ 

Responding to the weekend’s figures, Labour’s shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said: ‘Over the Christmas break, they were quick to claim credit for the low number of crossings, so where are the Home Secretary and PM now, when we’ve seen almost 800 people arrive in small boats over the bank holiday weekend?

‘This is complete chaos. It’s time the Tories got a grip and adopted Labour’s plan of going after the criminal smuggling gangs, with a new cross-border police unit, and set up a new returns and enforcement unit to remove those who have no right to be here.’

The Government has previously heralded a fall in arrivals by a third during 2022, and said arrivals over the past 12 months are still lower than for the whole of 2022, when more than 45,000 made the journey across the Channel.



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