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In December 2018 there was a significant increase in the numbers of migrants, many claiming to be Iranian on arrival, attempting to reach the UK by crossing the English Channel in small ill-equipped inflatable boats. This, in addition to the fact that the English Channel contains some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and has unpredictable weather conditions, were factors that, combined, posed a real danger to lives. It led to the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, declaring the crossings a “major incident” on 28 December 2018. This briefing provides some wider context to the migrant crossings in the channel, examines specifically why migrants appear to be taking more risky and extreme measures to cross the channel on small boats, and outlines what the government’s response has been to this recent rise in crossings. In line with media reports on this subject, this briefing refers to all individuals moving across borders that have not yet completed the legal process of claiming asylum as migrants.


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