Six times as many migrants crossed the Channel by boat in January compared with the same month last year.
UK authorities intercepted or rescued 1,347 migrants who made the perilous journey across the Channel in 46 boats. That compares to 223 migrants in 15 boats last year and just 87 in eight boats during the first month of 2020.
If the trend of the past six months continues, the numbers arriving will top 40,000 – more than a third more than the record 28,381 who reached the UK across the Channel last year.
Ministers have been warned that in the “worst case scenario”, 65,000 could cross the Channel this year – dwarfing the 8,410 who reached the UK in 2020.
Migrant crossing numbers in 2021 far higher than 2020
Natalie Elphicke, Tory MP for Dover, said the French needed to do more to stop “unchecked” criminality by people smugglers on their shores.
“The French have taken tens of millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ hard-earned money and people will rightly ask what on earth is being done with it,” she said.
“Enough is enough. The French need to honour their international obligations to save lives and stop this brazen criminality going unchecked on their shores.”
On the busiest day in January, 271 migrants arrived in Dover, Kent – more than the whole of January last year.
The surge in crossings has continued, despite 27 migrants dying when their dinghy sank in November – the worst single loss of life in the Channel for decades.
So far this year, three migrants have been confirmed to have died in northern France attempting to reach the UK. Charity Care4Calais said it was “likely” there had been at least two more.
A spokesman for the charity, which supports refugees in Europe and the UK, said: “All this so early in the year brings home the dangers refugees face, and the appalling fact that our government will not act to stop it.
“To caring people, these tragedies are unbearable – young men who have fled persecution, torture and death, dying alone so far from their homes.
“The atrocious spectacle could be ended by the introduction of a system allowing refugees in France to claim asylum in the UK and receive safe passage.”
Ministers will this month unveil details of its plans for the Royal Navy to take charge of combating the surge in Channel crossings.
Tom Pursglove, the immigration minister, said the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill would bring in the necessary long-term changes to tackle “the blatant disregard of our immigration laws”.
This includes life sentences for smugglers and four-year jail terms for entering the UK illegally. It also includes powers for Border Force to stop and redirect vessels, as well as offshore processing centres for asylum seekers.