In the last five years, the number of people crossing the English Channel in small boats has risen sharply. The vast majority of those arriving claim asylum when they get to the UK.

These Channel crossings pose serious risks to the safety of those making the journey, and it can be deadly.

The UK government has responded to the rise in Channel crossings with a series of highly controversial and contested policy announcements. In this briefing paper, we aim to explore the reasons for the increase in small boat arrivals to help form a firmer basis for a humane and effective policy response.

This briefing draws on interviews with key experts and stakeholders – including those with lived experience of crossing the Channel in small boats – as well as analysis of Home Office data. It sets out some of the potential factors explaining the recent rise, gives an overview of the government's approach up till now and assesses its potential implications. It also sets out some potential ways forward, which we intend to explore and assess in more detail in our final report for this project.