At least 20 boats cross the Channel to England in one weekend

A boat carrying migrants intercepted near Koksijde on Sunday was one of at least 20 that attempted to cross the English Channel at the weekend. Due to French police actions related to the Olympics, people are more frequently attempting to cross from the Belgian coast.

The high number of police checks had previously pushed human smugglers to other places, but recent figures show that 130 transmigrants were intercepted in West Flanders last month. The figure is almost four times as high as the same month last year, when 34 people were intercepted in the province. In March 2022, authorities found 171 migrants in West Flanders.

There are several possible explanations for the trend, and there is always a peak in the spring and summer because the weather is better and it stays light longer. According to the chief constable of the West Coast police zone, Nicholas Paelinck, tightened police actions in France in the run-up to the Olympics are pushing many towards Belgium. Homeless people in Paris and the periphery are being driven out and there is an increasing military presence on the streets. 

Moreover, British prime minister Rishi Sunak's controversial Rwanda plan may get the green light this week. Conservatives in parliament on Monday reiterated their support for the plan that would see migrants entering the country illegally sent to Rwanda. Many asylum seekers are therefore trying to reach the UK before that comes into force.

On Sunday, a boat carrying 38 people was spotted off the coast of Koksijde. Police failed to stop the vessel, after which it was decided to escort it to British waters, where it was handed over to the relevant authorities. According to Belgian police forces, more than 20 boats made the crossing to the UK last weekend.


An Italian military ship arrives in the port of Pozzallo, Sicily in 2014, with around 350 people onboard © GIOVANNI ISOLINO / AFP

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