‘I love England,’ migrant says as he lands after boat crossing

By Toby Melville

DUNGENESS, England (Reuters) – Dozens of men, women and children arrived on a shingle beach on the southern coast of England on Wednesday, tired but relieved to be brought ashore by a large orange lifeboat after making the risky sea crossing from France in rubber dinghies.

They are the latest among more than 2,000 migrants who have reached Britain from countries like Iran, Syria and Afghanistan just this month, encouraged by better weather to make the journey in their bid to claim asylum in the UK.

“I love England,” one bearded man told a Reuters photographer, smiling, as he walked on the gravely beach in a black parka jacket. He said he was from Syria.

Two other men at the beach also said they were Syrian, having reached Britain after passing through Italy and France, while a teenager said he was from Kuwait and it had taken him one month to arrive.

The numbers arriving underscore the scale of the challenge facing British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his pledge to “stop the boats” as he prepares for a national election expected next year.

At the beach in Dungeness, amid blue skies and warm weather, migrants disembarked government and charity lifeboats to be taken by bus to the ferry port of Dover an hour away for processing by British authorities.

In total, at least 100 migrants arrived on small boats on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally from Dungeness and Dover.

Those arriving included many children, some barefoot, clutching blankets and walking hand in hand with their parents, or being carried by officials in high-vis jackets.

Almost 17,000 migrants have arrived so far this year, although that is less than during the same period last year. In total, nearly 46,000 migrants were detected arriving in small boats in 2022. Many will have likely paid people smugglers for their crossings, often in overcrowded, unseaworthy boats.

Sunak has faced criticism from some of his own lawmakers for not moving quickly enough to crack down on illegal migration, which has been blamed in parts of the country for stretching public services, including the provision of accommodation.

He has signed deals with France and Turkey to stem the flow of migrants, and his government passed an illegal migration law which plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, although that plan has been bogged down in the courts.

At the moment, however, the flow of migrants shows little sign of slowing as more boats arrive on the southern English coast.

Last year, August represented the highest number of small boat arrivals for any month on record, while half of all migrants arrived during August-October.

(Writing by Sachin Ravikumar; Editing by Alison Williams)