LONDON - A refugee man carried ashore a sleeping baby in a pink romper suit in Dover in southeastern England on Tuesday after arriving by boat in one of the first such crossings this year, following record numbers in 2021.

The group of migrants, including children, landed at the Marina in Dover after the UK's lifeboat service met their boat at sea and brought them in safely, according to an AFP photographer.

They were escorted ashore by UK Border Force officers, with some smiling and raising victory signs as they stepped onto the quay.

Last year, record numbers of more than 28,000 migrants who paid thousands of pounds to people traffickers arrived in the UK in often flimsy boats, according to analysis of Home Office data by the domestic Press Association news agency.

This was more than triple the numbers seen in 2020, with the higher numbers attributed to the smugglers' use of bigger boats to navigate one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

November in particular saw record numbers of at least 6,869 people making the trip, due to favourable weather conditions.

Tragically, 27 refugees drowned off France on November 24 after they attempted to cross in a boat likened by French officials to a children's inflatable pool.

The high number of migrants crossing to Britain from mainland Europe has become a political headache for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Home Secretary Priti Patel.

The flow of migrants has also soured Britain's relations with France, prompting an unseemly blame game even as both sides try to disrupt the people trafficking networks.

The UK government's Nationality and Borders Bill is currently before parliament, promising tougher action against people smugglers and, controversially, migrants themselves.

If passed, the bill, opposed by rights groups, will allow the return of asylum seekers who have passed through so-called "safe third countries".