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Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Government rhetoric on small boat crossings debunked

The Refugee Council has published new research which shows that at least six out of ten (60%) of all those who made the dangerous Channel crossing to the UK in small boats last year will be recognised as refugees through the asylum process.

They say that the analysis, based on Home Office data, finds that 25,119 of the 45,746 men, women and children who made the journey in 2022 would be allowed to stay in the UK as refugees:

At the same time the numbers of people starting new lives in the UK under formal resettlement programmes such as family reunion have fallen dramatically – suggesting that more people seeking refugee status are taking the dangerous Channel journey.

The report reveals that most of those crossing the Channel are people fleeing war-torn or oppressive countries where no safe and formal routes such as refugee visas exist for making an asylum claim in the UK. This is in contrast to those escaping the war in Ukraine, where more than 200,000 visas have been issued under a UK refugee scheme.

The report shows that safe routes for the main nationalities crossing the channel have been drastically reduced – resettlement numbers are 75 per cent lower than in 2019 and the number of family reunion visas issued is 36 per cent below the pre-pandemic level. For example, thousands of Iranians crossed the channel but just nine were resettled to the UK between January and September 2022.

The report also shows that Government proposals to remove the right to claim asylum from those crossing on boats would lead to thousands of people living in limbo and potentially being locked up in detention at huge cost of hundreds of millions of pounds to the taxpayer.

Just as for those fleeing Ukraine, most of those in the boats are from countries where their safety is at risk. Ukraine does not feature in the main nationalities crossing the Channel on a small boat in 2022 due to the visa scheme in place.A staggering 40 per cent of those on the small boats in 2022 come from just five countries – all of which have major problems with conflict and oppression and have asylum grant rates over 80 or 90 per cent.

The analysis finds that 8,700 children were among those crossing the Channel, around one in five of the overall number.

Under the Refugee Convention, which the UK has signed up to, anyone fleeing war, persecution or conflict has the right to claim asylum on the soil of a signatory to the Convention. The removal of safe routes however, means that for many the only avenue by which refugees can make this claim is by crossing the channel in small boats, at great risk to themselves.

These are not illegal crossings, these are mostly legitimate refugees trying to claim the asylum they are entitled to under a convention the UK has committed to.

The reinstatement of safe routes, the expeditious processing of claims and initial vetting on the other side of the channel could make a big difference to our so-called refugee crisis, while saving many, many lives.

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