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UK records spike in Indians crossing the English Channel illegally

The year 2019 and 2018 witnessed no illegal crossing of Indian nationals into the United Kingdom. However, last year's number hit a total of 683 people entering the country via small boats.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with French President Emmanuel Macron recently discussing new Energy Partnership to tackling illegal migration. Image - Twitter @RishiSunak

The United Kingdom has raised concerns over a spike in Indians crossing over illegally into the country across the English Channel last year.

A report by the U.K. Home Office "Irregular Migration to the U.K." statistics for the year ending December 2022, shows a total of 683 Indian people crossing over in small boats. In 2021, this figure was said to be 67 Indian nationals – a small increase from 2020 when 64 Indians crossed into the U.K. illegally. The year 2019 and 2018 witnessed no such illegal crossing of Indian nationals.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently spoke about the returns agreement with India under the Migration and Mobility Partnership (MMP) amid concerns over illegal immigration.

"We have returns agreements with India, Pakistan, Serbia, Nigeria and — crucially — now with Albania, where we are returning hundreds of people," Sunak told the Commons during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs).

"Our position is clear: if you arrive here illegally you will not be able to claim asylum here, you will not be able to access the modern slavery system and you will not be able to make spurious human rights claims. That is the right thing to do,” he added.

The latest stats come as Sunak joined hands with France to tackle illegal migration. The U.K. and France plan to work together to crack down on small boats’ illegal migration from the French port of Calais to the English port of Dover.

“I have made it one of my five priorities to stop the boats. We are delivering on that priority to stop people coming to the UK illegally, Sunak said in a statement. “Last year I agreed to the largest ever small boats deal with France to increase UK-funded patrols by 40 per cent. This week I announced measures to ensure nobody who enters the UK illegally can remain here.”

According to the Home Office data,  apart from the illegal arrivals via small boats, over 400 Indian nationals arrived in the country as “inadequately documented air arrivals” in 2022.

Most of the “irregular arrivals” from India on small boats were men between the ages of 25 and 40. The total number of small boat illegal immigrants was 45,755 in 2022. Most of them included nationals from Albania and Afghanistan, followed by Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Other South Asian nationalities included Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, and Bangladeshis.

“We don’t need to manage this problem, we need to break it. And today, we have gone further than ever before to put an end to this disgusting trade in human life. Working together, the UK and France will ensure that nobody can exploit our systems with impunity,” Sunak said.