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Group of 66 migrants become first to cross English Channel in 2022

At least 66 people have become the first to cross the English Channel this year after two boats arrived on the Kent coast.

Photographs showed a small child wearing a pink onesie being carried ashore in the arms of a man as the pair arrived in Dover aboard an RNLI lifeboat alongside others fresh from the dangerous sea journey.

They were seen being escorted up the gangway by immigration officials before they were taken off to be processed.

At least 66 people succeeded in making the perilous trip aboard two boats on Tuesday morning, the Home Office confirmed.

The latest arrivals – believed to be the first this year – come after more than 28,300 people crossed the Dover Strait aboard small boats in 2021, triple the number for 2020.

Last year’s record number – an increase of about 20,000 on 2020 – came despite millions of pounds promised to French authorities to tackle the issue.

A Home Office minister said the government was “reforming” its approach to asylum through its New Plan for Immigration.

Also seen arriving in Dover on Tuesday morning were a man and woman leading a child wrapped in a blanket – perhaps a family-of-three.

A number of Border Force and French boats were active in the Channel on Tuesday amid renewed attempts to cross the dangerous waters.

The last 12 months have seen smugglers packing more and more people aboard larger and larger dinghies, sometimes with deadly consequences.

But arrivals will continue and more people will drown in the narrow sea between France and Britain if the government pursues its “dangerous and callous policy”, ministers have been warned.

Overall, at least 28,395 people reached the UK aboard small boats in 2021, according to analysis by the PA news agency.

Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive at Refugee Action, said the UK government’s policy will lead to more deaths in the Dover Strait.

He said: “People will continue to cross the Channel in flimsy boats, and smugglers will continue to profit, unless ministers open up more routes for refugees to claim asylum here.

“(In November) we saw the deadly result of their strategy of keeping people out rather than keeping people safe, when at least 27 people died near our coast.

“And yet the government wants to legalise this dangerous and callous policy in its Anti-Refugee Bill, which will only lead to more people drowning. It must wake up and scrap this Bill now.”

Home Office minister Tom Pursglove said: “Seeking asylum for protection should not involve people asylum shopping country to country, or risking their lives by lining the pockets of criminal gangs to cross the Channel.”

He said the government is “reforming” its approach by “making the tough decisions to end the overt exploitation of our laws and UK taxpayers”.

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