Home Office confirms more than 40,000 crossed Channel after Sunak pledged to ‘stop the boats’

Labour have branded Rishi Sunak a “desperate liar” after new figures suggest that the number of people coming over on small boats has increase not gone down as he has claimed.

The party calculated that more than 40,000 asylum seekers have now crossed the Channel in small boats since Mr Sunak made his pledge to stop them altogether in January 2022.

It comes after fiery exchanges in the leaders debate on ITV last night where Mr Sunak insisted the number of illegal migrants on small boats was coming down.

Labour’s calculations came as the Home Office have confirmed that 234 people crossed the Channel on small boats on Tuesday 4 June, taking the total for 2024 up to 10,745.

This is 41.2 per cent more than up to the same point last year (7,610), and 7.6 per cent more than the previous record year in 2022 (9,984).

Sunak said Starmer did not have a plan (Getty Images)
Sunak said Starmer did not have a plan (Getty Images)

Yesterday's arrivals also took the total number since Mr Sunak pledged to 'stop the boats' on 4 January 2023 above 40,000 (40,138), and the total number to arrive since the small boats crisis started in 2018 above 125,000 (125,067).

The figures come in the aftermath of the leaders televised election debate last night on ITV where Mr Sunak clashed with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in the first head-to-head test.

Already, the prime minister is facing accusations that he “lied” about his claim Treasury officials had calculated Labour would add £2,000 to the average household tax bill.

Now his claims on the small boats crisis are also being questioned after he and Sir Keir clashed heavily on the issue last night.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour's shadow paymaster general, said: "Another bare-faced lie from Rishi Sunak has been exposed. Last night, he told the British people that the number of small boat arrivals were coming down. But today, we have confirmation from the Home Office itself that small boat arrivals so far in 2024 are at a record high, running more than 40 per cent higher than last year.

"Even worse, we now know that – when Rishi Sunak promised the British people that he would stop the boats – he was telling another lie.

“Exactly 18 months on from that day, 40,000 people have now made the crossing, while he has sat on his hands doing nothing to take on the smuggling gangs. Rishi Sunak has become a desperate liar.

"If a Labour government is elected on 4 July, we will take the action required to tackle this chaos. Our new Border Security Command will put to work hundreds of new specialist investigators, officers and prosecutors, using touhnew counter-terror powers to smash the gangs making millions from this evil trade."

Nigel Farage told The Independent: “How Sunak can keep a straight face when he says stop the boats is beyond me.”

According to Labour, this year's record figures for small boat traffic look even worse if we take into account the number of people rescued by the French authorities after getting into difficulty early in their journey.

As of 4 June, 1,894 people have been taken back to the French coast after attempting to cross the Channel, 63.5 per cent more than were rescued over the same period last year (1,158).

During the clashes last night, Mr Sunak repeatedly asked what Sir Keir would do to stop thr boats but did not receive a direct answer.

Defending his own plan to fly illegal migrants to Rwanda from July, he claimed that Labour “simply does not have a plan.”

Sir Keir retorted that if MMr Sunak “was so confident about his Rwanda plan, why did he call an election now instead of waiting to see if it worked?”