Channel crossings have fallen by 20%, says Rishi Sunak – but critics say it’s just down to bad weather

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak onboard Border Agency cutter HMC Seeker during a visit to Dover, ahead of a press conference to update the nation on the progress made in the six months since he introduced the Illegal Migration Bill under his plans to "stop the boats". Picture date: Monday June 5, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Migrants. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

RISHI Sunak revealed small boat crossings fell by 20 per cent this year and declared: “Our plan is working.”

On a visit to Dover, the PM announced those making the perilous Channel journey totalled 7,600 — compared to nearly 10,000 this time last year.

Rishi Sunak revealed small boat crossings fell by 20 per cent this year and declared: ‘Our plan is working’

A 222-bed vessel gets a refit at Falmouth, Cornwall

But critics put the fall down to bad weather, with campaigner Nigel Farage insisting: “Stop the Boats is not working, it’s just windy.”

Mr Sunak responded: “There’s many things I can control.

“The weather is not one of them. I wish it was so.”

He added that the first migrant barge, off Portland, Dorset, will begin taking hundreds of migrants within a fortnight — with two more barges on the way.

Their locations will be unveiled soon.

More than 5,000 asylum seekers are to be placed on vessels and at other large-scale sites — including two new camps at RAF Wethersfield and Scampton — by the autumn to drive down the cost of hotels.

These are currently putting up 47,000, costing taxpayers £6million a day.

Other policies to reduce costs include making some single men share rooms.

The PM said an agreement with the French had seen the number of attempted crossings they intercepted rise from 42 per cent to 53.

And a separate deal with Albania meant Channel migrants from that country plunged 90 per cent, with just 139 arrivals so far this year.

However, only 1,800 of those who had already reached Britain have been repatriated due to a huge backlog of cases.

After joining a patrol on a ­Border Force cutter, Mr Sunak told journalists: “Our plan is starting to work.

“I said I would stop the boats and I meant it. I will not rest until the boats are stopped.”

But with the numbers of people waiting for asylum claims to be heard falling by 17,000 he admitted: “Our generosity of spirit is being used against us.”

Labour’s Yvette Cooper said: “The Prime Minister flew to Dover today to congratulate himself even though the asylum backlog he promised to clear is at a record high.

“Decisions are down, case workers have dropped, hotel use is up, returns are still down — only one per cent of last year’s small boat cases have been processed.

“A backlog is a backlog no matter how much they try to spin it away.”

Tory Vice Chair Lee Anderson joined calls to enforce plans to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda while their claims were heard.

He told MPs: “Sharing rooms and barges, and relying on the French is not the answer.

“I think we all know, anybody with common sense in this place knows what the answer is, and that is to get the flights off to Rwanda as quickly as possible.”

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said yesterday: “The PM is showing that with grit and grip he can start to turn the small boats crisis around.

“But it’s going to be really tough unless more boats are stopped from leaving French shores in the first place.”

Meanwhile it emerged smugglers are offering last-minute discounts to fill gaps on boats, with such slots going for a third of the usual price at €1,000.

However boats are increasingly low-quality and dangerous.

Many are now cobbled together in black market factories in Turkey and eastern Europe before being carted by lorries to France.

The flimsy vessels are getting bigger, with up to 90 migrants are being packed aboard.

The Chinese-made engines cannot get them all the way over on a single tank — forcing them to carry fuel.

Some passengers are given life jackets while others have to make do with motorbike inner tubes.

Yet four in ten have no life jacket at all — and up to 90 per cent cannot swim.

The PM joins crew on the lookout for small boats
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