Illegal Immigrants Entering The Country After Crossing The English Channel

Legal Matters, Migration Trends

The government recently claimed that the UK border is secure (Parliamentary Answer).

Yet, out of the other side of their mouth they have admitted that the number of illegal arrivals is ‘rising‘, with a total of 3,850 people having come here via illegal and deadly Channel crossings from safe countries such as France and Belgium since the start of 2018.

Many are actually being brought to the UK by the Border Force after being encountered the Channel. At least 1,283 people have arrived since the Covid-19 lockdown began on 23 March, yet the government have only just started to quarantine for a fortnight those arriving (see media report) .

Only 6% of those arriving in this manner were returned to France in 2019.

Read more in our detailed paper on illegal channel crossings (published 8 May 2020), which was covered in The Times, the Daily Telegraph, Breitbart, the Conservative Woman and Mail Online.

As there are no regularly-released official figures, these estimates are based on both specific information released by the Home Office and on individual media reports:


297 people were brought to the UK after having been encountered by Border Force (191) or arrived in the UK on their own (106). A third – 144 – of the total of 441 who made the attempt, but did not abort their journey, were ‘intercepted and returned to France’ (Home Office, March 2019).


1,892 people successfully crossed the Channel (BBC News). This includes most of the estimate that 1,456 people believed to have arrived between December 2018 and October 2019 (Sky News). Of these, the Home Office said it had returned ‘over 85’, which means that only around 6% – or one in 17 – were sent back. It appears that 400-500 made it to the UK between October and the end of 2019 (figure compiled from individual media reports). The total understood to have been returned during 2019 is 125.


1,661 people have crossed already this year (this is based on individual and compiled media reports (see Annex A below).

Total = 3,850

Breakdown of reported arrivals during 2020 so far


1,661 people are believed to have successfully crossed the Channel illegally so far in 2020, (including 1,283 people since the Covid-19 lockdown began on 23 March). This included those arriving in the following reported incidents:

May: Total for month so far = 624

  • 26 May – Boat and kayak carry 80 people across Channel (see media report).
  • 22 May – 13 people came to the UK via this route (see media report).
  • 20 May – 64 migrants made it across the Channel in five boats (see media report).
  • 17 May – a further 35 people were picked up in three boats (see media report).
  • 16 May – 90 people brought to Dover by Border Force after they crossed in six boats (see media report).
  • 13/14 May – Another 14 migrants reach Dover (see media report).
  • 10 May – 17 migrants brought here after being encountered by the Border Force off the Kent coast. The Home Office said there were 11 men and six women on board who presented themselves as Iraqi nationals (see media report).
  • 9 May – The Home Office picked up a further 82 migrants, seventy of whom were aboard inflatable boats, while 12 men were found at Dungeness on the Kent coast (see media report).
  • 8 May – A record 145 migrants were brought to Dover after making the perilous journey across the English Channel. This is believed to be a new single-day record after 102 were picked up on February 7. Those picked up were Iranian, Iraqi, Kuwaiti, and Afghan nationals (see media report).
  • 4 May – 16 migrants brought here after being encountered across Kent coast Border Force (see media report).
  • 3 May – 49 migrants were brought here after being encountered by the Border Force off the Kent coast (see media report)
  • Unknown dates – Other media reports suggest 19 migrants arrived at other points during the month.

April: Total for month = 523

  • 27 April – 90 migrants brought here after being encountered in Channel (see media report).
  • 25 April – 35 migrants brought here after being encountered in the Channel (see media report).
  • 24 April – 76 migrants were brought to Dover by the UK Border Force (see media report).
  • 17 April – 73 migrants cross the Channel. Those landing in Dover were given face masks amid concerns about reports of a coronavirus outbreak in migrant camps in Calais (BBC News).
  • 9 April – A boat with 16 migrants brought here after being encountered in Dover area (BBC News).
  • 7 April – 63 migrants in four boats brought to Dover (BBC News)
  • 2 April – 52 migrants, including five children, brought here after being encountered in the Dover area (see report).
  • 4 April – Iranian, Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Syrian and Yemeni nationals were among the 53 people brought here after trying to cross the Channel. They were all taken ashore where they underwent medical checks and were passed to immigration officials, a government spokesman said. With the arrival of British Summer Time, such crossings were expected to become more frequent from now until the late autumn (see report).
  • Unknown dates- Other media reports suggested that 65 migrants were reocrded as arriving at other times during the month.

March: Total for month = 228 (and 136 after lockdown on 23 March)

  • 27 March – Four small boats carrying 41 migrants were brought here after being encountered in the Channel (BBC News).
  • 25 March – 95 migrants brought to Kent after crossing. They included Iranian, Iraqi, Afghan or Kuwaiti nationals. They were among more than 160 migrants, in six boats, who were caught crossing the Channel as fewer French patrols and warmer weather prompted an upsurge in attempts. 74 of those who attempted the crossing were caught by French authorities and returned to Boulogne (The Times).
  • 23 March – Lockdown measures put in place in the UK to tackle Covid-19
  • 19 March – A total 39 migrants in three boats were stopped in vessels in the English Channel. Among them were said to be Iranian and Iraqi nationals (see report). 
  • 17 March – 25 migrants brought here after crossing the English Channel (see report).
  • 4 March – 28 people, in two boats (27 of them men), were brought here by the Border Force and taken to Dover where they were assessed medically and handed over to immigration officials (BBC News).

February: Total for month = 192

  • 7 February – 102 people brought here after being encountered in the English Channel – the highest number ever at that point since over 80 people arrived in one day in mid-2019. Five boats contained people said to be from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria (Sky News).
  • 6 February – 90 migrants were brought here after being encountered in the Dover area (in eight boats) while trying to reach the UK. The Home Office said all of those found, apart from the group detained by Kent Police, were taken to Dover where they were medically assessed before being transferred to immigration officials to be interviewed. They were said to be of Syrian, Yemeni, Egyptian, Iraqi, Senegalese, Malian and Guinean descent (see media report).

January: Total for month = 94

  • January – 94 migrants were brought to the UK after making the attempted crossing between 20 – 27 January, according to figures from the UK and French authorities (see media report).

11th May 2020

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