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Numbers making risky English Channel crossing ‘still too large’ says No 10

Rishi Sunak’s pledge to ‘stop the boats’ has run into a series of difficulties in the English Channel, the courts and the House of Lords.

The number of people risking their lives to cross the English Channel in small boats is “still too large” and could escalate further over the summer, Downing Street has said.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has promised to “stop the boats” as one of his main policy priorities, but so far this year 12,772 people have been detected making the journey, including 1,339 in the last three days.

Some 686 migrants were detected on Friday, the highest daily total this year, followed by 384 on Saturday and 269 on Sunday.

Crossings continued on Monday.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
A group of people thought to be migrants leave Manston immigration short-term holding facility in Kent on board a coach (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Meanwhile the Government’s efforts to tackle the issue remain mired in difficulties.

The Illegal Migration Bill returns to the Commons on Tuesday after being mauled in the Lords, where peers defeated the Government 20 times to rewrite the legislation.

The Government is expected to seek to overturn many of the changes, although it may be forced to offer concessions to get the Bill back on track.

Efforts to house asylum seekers on a barge moored in Portland, Dorset, have also been delayed – five weeks after Home Secretary Suella Braverman promised MPs it would be in place within a fortnight, the Bibby Stockholm vessel was still in Cornwall where it had been undergoing refurbishment work.

And the Government’s policy of sending some asylum seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda is set for a legal battle in the Supreme Court.

Migrant accommodation
The Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge at Falmouth docks in Cornwall (Matt Keeble/PA)

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I think we always knew that, as we move into the summer months, crossings will escalate.

“We are continuing to stop significant numbers of crossings.

“I still believe that you are more likely to be stopped and turned back than to make the crossing, and that’s because of the work with our French counterparts and the extra support that we have put in.

“But clearly the numbers making the journeys are still too large and that’s why we need the other elements of our ‘stop the boats’ package.”

That includes both the Rwanda deal and the Illegal Migration Bill.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
A coach carrying people thought to be migrants leaves Manston immigration short-term holding facility in Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Former home secretary Ken Clarke, one of the more centrist figures in the Conservative Party, called on people to “give the Rwanda scheme a chance to work” and reconfirmed his support for the Illegal Migration Bill.

Writing in The Telegraph, Lord Clarke said that, while he has advocated the benefits that migrants bring to Britain, “doing nothing about illegal immigration is not an option”.

He said: “Everyone knows that (illegal migration) is a huge problem, and that, if we cannot find a solution, people will die in the Channel in considerable numbers by taking risks as they come here.”

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