Indians second largest group crossing English Channel: Home Office data

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London: The number of Indians illegally crossing over into the UK across the English Channel has increased sharply in the first three months of the year, making them the second biggest cohort after Afghans, according to the latest Home Office statistics.

Between January 1 and March 31, 2023, the most common nationality arriving via small boat was Afghans (909, 24 per cent) followed by Indians (675, 18 per cent), the new data revealed.

A total of 3,793 people were detected arriving in small boats in the same period, a Home Office statement said, adding that the “crossings are generally higher in better weather.”

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In 2022, almost half of small boat arrivals were Albanians (28 per cent of the total, although these arrivals occurred mostly between July and September 2022) and Afghans (20 per cent, with their numbers greater towards the end of the year).

The top five nationalities now illegally crossing the Channel in small boats include, Afghanistan, India, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

While the final statistics are due to be published on May 25 this year, a last month Home Office data showed 683 Indians arriving in the country on small boats in 2022, as compared to 67 in 2021.

In February this year, Indians allegedly became the third-largest group of migrants entering UK shores illegally after Afghans and Syrians, The Times report said citing Home Office sources.

The report had said that about 250 Indian migrants made the perilous crossing in small boats this year alone, outnumbering the 233 who arrived via small boats in the first nine months of last year

The Home Office had said a reason for spike in numbers could be Serbia’s visa-free travel rules for Indians.

Until December last year, all Indian passport holders could enter Serbia without a visa for up to 30 days but this arrangement ended on January 1, resulting in some Indians travelling in small boats into the EU and then to the UK, according to Home Office sources.

“We have seen a spike of Indian nationals coming across in small boats over the last few months,” the Home Office source had told The Times.

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( With inputs from )

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