LONDON: The number of migrants to have crossed the English Channel into the UK by small boat since 2018 reached 100,000 people this week, driven in part by refugees fleeing from Afghanistan and the Middle East.
At least nine boats were intercepted by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution on Thursday, carrying an estimated 400 people.
On Wednesday, Home Office figures put the total number of people to have made the journey at 99,960.
Around 8,600 of them are Afghans, with numbers from the Central Asian country increasing significantly following the withdrawal of US-led coalition forces in August 2021 and the subsequent takeover of the government by the Taliban. So far, 898 Afghans are known to have made the trip in 2023.
The largest group of migrants across the period are Albanians, with at least 12,300 people coming to the UK between 2018 and 2022, followed by Afghans, Iranians (at least 5,600), Iraqis (4,400) and Syrians (2,900).
The number of crossings has increased steadily up to the start of 2023, with greater demand to reach the UK creating more opportunities for people-traffickers to profit.
Crossings from France become more frequent during the late summer months as weather conditions turn more favorable.
Up to the end of July 2023, there had been 15,072 recorded crossings, down around 15 percent from the same point in 2022, when the yearly total ended up at 45,755.
However, August 2022 saw an uptick in crossings with 8,641 people detected across the month alone.
The period from the start of August to the end of October witnessed 51 percent of the year’s total number of crossings, with a similar surge expected this year.
The UK Border Force warned that Friday could be a “red day” — a term to denote an increased number of people traveling — due to expected good weather and fewer French police and border force officials on duty on the other side of the Channel as a result of annual leave.
French authorities are expected to temporarily lose as much as 20 percent of their personnel in the north of the country over the coming weeks, with other officers deployed to the south of the country to handle increased numbers of tourists and holiday-makers.