Migrants rescued from a flotilla of boats crossing the English Channel

More than 650 people crossed the English Channel in a flotilla of small boats on Friday, according to UK government figures.

Fifteen boats were intercepted, the UK Ministry of Defense said, while 65 people were rescued by French authorities.

Asylum seekers crossing the English Channel are a big political problem, as more and more people try to make the journey, often in broken boats, on one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, to get the chance to take refuge in the UK.

As the numbers have soared from a few hundred to tens of thousands a year, the issue has sparked controversy for a British Conservative government that wants to be tough on immigration.

It is the 12th time the daily figure has exceeded 600 and brings the annual total to 32,321.

This week, the annual total reached more than 30,000.

Tents have been erected in Dover to accommodate migrants during processing – with new arrivals sometimes appearing to overflow existing facilities.

French authorities also launched a rescue operation on Friday after a boat ran into difficulty off Gravelines in northern France.

A representative from the maritime prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea said the maritime army had rescued 65 people from the wreckage.

“The castaways were landed at the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer, where they were taken care of by the border police and the departmental fire and rescue service,” the agency said.

“This maritime sector is one of the busiest in the world, with more than 400 merchant ships passing through it every day, and the weather conditions are often difficult.

“It is therefore a particularly dangerous sector, especially at a time when the water temperature will drop.”

The Channel crossings were one of the reasons for the British government’s plan to deport some migrants to Rwanda in central Africa. The policy was intended to deter migrants and smuggling gangs from attempting the crossing.

In the five months since the announcement of the Rwandan policy, 27,053 people have arrived in the UK via the Channel route.

In 2021, around 28,300 people crossed the Channel to the UK in small boats in 2021, more than triple the number recorded the previous year.

The record number – an increase from 8,466 in 2020 – came despite millions of pounds pledged to French authorities to tackle the problem.

In 2018, 299 people were detected making the journey, and in 2019 there were 1,843 crossings.

In 2018 there were less than 10 people in each boat, while in 2019 and 2020 the average shifted to teenagers.

In 2021, average occupancy increased further, reaching 30 in August.

The average number of people in each boat was 46 in August 2022.

Updated: September 24, 2022, 4:07 p.m.