Border Force fears that the number of migrants making Channel crossings will nearly double from 45,000 to 80,000 this year
- Sources say that as many as 80,000 could make the dangerous journey in 2023
- That is the ‘the upper limit’ of expected crossings, with 45,000 as a ‘lower limit’
The number of migrants crossing the Channel on small boats could nearly double this year, according to Whitehall projections obtained by The Mail on Sunday.
Sources in the Border Force say that as many as 80,000 could make the dangerous journey in 2023 – up from 45,000 last year.
That is described as ‘the upper limit’ of expected crossings, with a repeat of the 45,000 figure as the likely ‘lower limit’.
The revelation will cause alarm in Downing Street after Tory MPs – spooked by Sir Keir Starmer’s persistently high opinion poll lead – warned that failure to address the problem would be fatal to the party’s chances at the next General Election.
Sources in the Border Force say that as many as 80,000 migrants could make the dangerous journey across the Channel in 2023 – up from 45,000 last year
MPs in former Labour Red Wall seats in the Midlands and North say the issue comes up regularly on the doorsteps as an example of the failure to maximise Brexit benefits. Now senior MPs have urged Rishi Sunak to increase the number of ‘safe and legal’ routes to bolster the Government’s chances of finding a legal solution to the Channel crisis.
They also suggested expanding the so-called Dubs amendment to give sanctuary to unaccompanied children seeking asylum.
Downing Street is in listening mode to try to solve the small boats crisis. One Tory MP told Mr Sunak’s deputy chief of staff, Will Tanner, that MPs think new laws will have more chance of getting through the courts if there are legitimate ways to reach the UK. One option could be expanding safe and legal routes which are at present only open to some Afghans, Ukrainians and people from Hong Kong.
By opening new routes, Ministers could claim that in theory anyone arriving by small boat does not have a genuine claim to asylum.
It could also give Government lawyers more ammunition when they argue in favour of the extradition deal with Rwanda which is making its way through the courts.
Senior MPs have urged Rishi Sunak to increase the number of ‘safe and legal’ routes to bolster the Government’s chances of finding a legal solution to the Channel crisis
Ministers could also increase the number of children coming through the scheme pioneered by former Labour MP Alf Dubs which saw 480 unaccompanied minors arrive from Europe. But Government sources indicated this was unlikely.
In December, Mr Sunak vowed to create more ‘safe and legal’ routes – but only after the UK had got a ‘grip’ on immigration.
Tory MPs say it should be done sooner to help ensure success for immigration reforms in the courts.
Meanwhile, former Cabinet allies of Boris Johnson have claimed to the MoS that, when he was Chancellor, Mr Sunak blocked a £200 million plan to help tackle the problem by paying for detention facilities for asylum seekers on Army bases and old airfields, and to fund improved coordination between the Border Force and the military.
A source said: ‘He never bothered to attend a single meeting of the small boats task force. He wanted asylum seekers to be “dispersed into the community”, but that made it impossible for them to be tracked, and many just disappeared.’
Senior Tory figures are also putting Mr Sunak under pressure to repeal measures in the European Court of Human Rights to make it easier to deport migrants.
They believe the Prime Minister’s plans to tackle the Channel crisis, including a law that will ‘make unambiguously clear that if you enter the UK illegally you should not be able to remain here’, do not go far enough, given the continuing power of Strasbourg rulings.
The revelation will cause alarm in Downing Street after Tory MPs – spooked by Sir Keir Starmer’s persistently high opinion poll lead – warned that failure to address the migration problem would be fatal to the party’s chances at the next General Election
The Home Office does not reveal how it makes predictions on migration patterns. But it has an Analysis and Insight Unit.
A Border Force source said: ‘There is no limit to the number of people who want to come to the UK illegally and that’s what the model is based upon. Huge movements of people across the globe and the gangs adapting their operations to avoid law enforcement mean this year is looking very tough. We need serious reform.’
Alp Mehmet, chair of think tank Migrationwatch, said: ‘These predictions are appalling, but they don’t surprise me. Once migrants get here, they know they can stay, and this will attract more people to try to come by boat.’
Last night, a spokesman for the Home Office said: ‘The global migration crisis continues to place an unprecedented strain on our asylum system.
‘Under the new Small Boats Operational Command, and by working closely with our French partners and other agencies, we will go further to tackle the gangs, deter illegal migration and disrupt the business model of people smugglers.’
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