UK says Channel crossings on small boats hit a record this winter

Channel arrivals on small boats to the UK hit a record in the first quarter of 2024 with a nearly 42 percent rise over last year, British officials said Monday.

The UK interior ministry said 5,373 migrants landed on the shores of southeast England in the first three months of the year after crossing the Channel in small vessels.

This compares to 3,793 making the perilous journey from January to March in 2023 – a 41.7 percent rise and the highest figure ever for the opening quarter of any year.

Nearly 800 arrived on 16 small boats over just the Easter weekend.

This is a serious political problem for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in a general election year, after the embattled Conservative leader repeatedly vowed to "stop the boats".

He claimed to be succeeding when the annual total fell by around a third last year, but the trend has reversed dramatically so far in 2024.

Sunak is facing a daunting task keeping his Tories – in power since 2010 – in charge after the next election, which he must call at some point this year.

After nearly two years lagging well behind the main Labour opposition, two weekend surveys showed a further deterioration in support for the Conservatives.

Rwanda deal still on the cards

One study, involving more than 18,000 voters in multiple polls over recent weeks, forecasts the party will suffer its worst election defeat in history, reduced to just 80 MPs while Labour wins a record 470.

Read more on RFI English

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