In December 2018 the then home secretary, Sajid Javid, cut short his Christmas holidays to go to the Channel and stare at boats. Two hundred illegal migrants had crossed from France in the previous two months and Javid, buckling to public pressure, declared a ‘major incident’. On that basis his successor, Priti Patel, should cancel any holiday plans for the foreseeable future. The number of migrants coming in through this illegal route reached more than 2,000 in June, setting a new record. And this is just the start. The summer crossings are under way — and the British government seems to have no idea what to do about it.
The figures themselves could not be clearer. The number of migrants arriving across the Channel in illegal boats last year was four times higher than it was the year before (1,844 in 2019 against 8,400 in 2020).