Channel crossings: Busiest day of the year so far sees 711 migrants arrive in UK

More than 700 migrants arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel in a single day – a new record for the year so far.

The figures came as Downing Street branded protests in London and the South East aimed at blocking asylum seekers being moved from hotels to the Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge “unacceptable”.

The Home Office said 711 people made the journey in 14 boats on Wednesday, suggesting an average of 51 people per boat.

It takes the provisional total for the number of arrivals this year so far to 8,278.

Meanwhile, 45 people were arrested on Thursday when police were called after a large group of protesters blocked a coach believed to be set to take asylum seekers from a hotel in Peckham, south-east London, to the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, Dorset.

Pictures showed police officers surrounding the coach – which had a flat tyre – and removing several protesters while others joining the demonstration sat in the road.

The PA news agency understands the asylum seekers were taken back off the coach and have not yet left the hotel. The Home Office has not confirmed whether there are plans to try again to move them to the Bibby Stockholm on another day, if the transfer is now on hold indefinitely or has been abandoned altogether.

The Home Office did not comment on whether it had abandoned plans to move the asylum seekers but Home Secretary James Cleverly said the Government would “continue to remove those with no right to be here despite continued efforts by the Labour Party and a coalition of disparate student groups to stop us”.

Police try and stop protesters forming a blockade around a coach
Home Secretary James Cleverly thanked the police for their ‘swift and professional action’ (Yui Mok/PA)

He said: “No amount of chanting, drum banging or tyre slashing by a noisy few will prevent us doing what is necessary to deliver the firm but fair approach that the British people expect.

“I’d like to thank the police for their swift and professional action. They have my full support in clamping down on unacceptable criminality, racism and intimidation regardless of where it comes from.”

The Home Office abandoned plans to move a separate group of asylum seekers to the Bibby barge in the wake of protests in Margate, Kent, last week.

A Number 10 spokeswoman said: “Clearly, this disruption and disorder was completely unacceptable and it is unacceptable for Home Office staff to be prevented from carrying out their work.

“We have always acted to ensure that police have powers that they need to manage protest and tackle disorder. They have our full support in using those powers and upholding the law.”

Channel crossings had already hit a new record high for the first four months of a calendar year, and the latest figures show they have now jumped 34% on 2023 when 6,192 were recorded, and are up 19% on the total at this stage in 2022 (6,945).

Last year, 29,437 migrants arrived in the UK, down 36% on a record 45,774 arrivals in 2022.

Since the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act became law after receiving royal assent on Thursday last week, 1,611 migrants have made the journey in 32 boats.

(PA Graphics)

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman also described the number of migrants crossing the Channel as “unacceptable”, and said: “That is exactly why we need to get flights off the ground to Rwanda to provide the effective deterrent such that people know if they arrive here illegally they won’t be able to stay here.”

Labour’s shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said “this can’t go on”, adding: “For all the Government’s fanfare, we know the unaffordable and unworkable Rwanda plan won’t fix this chaos.

“It is costing half a billion pounds and will only cover a few hundred people a year, less than half of those who arrived on a single day this week.”

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said a third man had been charged with an immigration offence after five migrants died trying to cross the Channel last week, and was due to appear in court.