More than 1,000 migrants have crossed Channel into UK during first quarter of 2021

More than 1,000 people have crossed the English Channel aboard small boats so far in 2021, new data from the PA news agency suggests.

On Tuesday alone, at least 183 migrants crossed the Dover Strait, according to the Home Office.

While that is the highest daily figure of 2021, it is much lower than last year’s peak of 416.

The 1,000 mark was reached on Wednesday, the same day Home Secretary Priti Patel unveiled what she called "the most significant overhaul of our asylum system in decades".

Her plans to crack down on the issue have been questioned by experts, while some refugees living in the UK fear the proposals could "punish" those seeking safety.

Under the proposals, whether people enter the UK legally or illegally will have an impact on how their asylum claim progresses, and on their status in the UK if that claim is successful.

During the whole of 2020, around 8,400 migrants made the perilous journey to the UK, despite the dangers involved.

Already this year, a man is believed to have died while attempting to reach Britain.

Majdi Ahmed Balal, a Sudanese man in his late 20s, was aboard a sinking boat on 2 March, the charity Care4Calais said.

His three friends managed to escape and were taken to hospital with hypothermia.

A spokesperson for Care4Calais said Mr Balal’s friends were "devastated to have lost him".

"Every death at the UK border is preventable," the charity added.

"No one should have to risk their life to claim asylum in the UK."

Earlier this week, immigration minister Chris Philp said "dangerous crossings are facilitated by serious organised criminals exploiting people and profiting from human misery".

He emphasised a "fair but firm" asylum system, which will help protect those in general need through official routes, while "cracking down on those who enter the UK illegally and the abhorrent gangs which enable it".

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