Almost three quarters of those crossing the Channel would be allowed to stay in the UK as refugees - Refugee Council
October 2, 2023

Almost three quarters of those crossing the Channel would be allowed to stay in the UK as refugees

  • Nearly three quarters (74%) of Channel crossings so far in 2023 are refugees who would be granted asylum if claims were processed 
  • Apart from Albanians, the number of people crossing the Channel is higher in 2023 compared to 2022. 
  • Once the Illegal Migration Act is in force, as few as 3.5% of arrivals will be removed from the UK to their own country 

A new report by the Refugee Council reveals that three out of four people crossing the English Channel in small boats so far this year are refugees who would be granted asylum if their claims were processed. This is an increase from 65% last year and comes just days after the Home Secretary said in a controversial speech that the definition of a refugee should be restricted so fewer people are given protection. 

The report, The truth about Channel crossings and the impact of the Illegal Migration Act, analyses Home Office statistics on Channel crossings and finds that more than half (54%) of arrivals are from just five countries with high asylum grant rates: Afghanistan, Iran, Eritrea, Syria and Sudan 

Based on current grant rates by nationality, the report estimates that 14,648 people who have crossed so far this year would be recognised as refugees if their claims were processed. This represents 74% of all small boat arrivals in 2023 to date. This compares to nearly two thirds of those arriving in small boats in 2022 according to similar analysis from the Refugee Council, showing more refugees are coming across the Channel.  

The report challenges the Government and Home Office’s narrative that the majority of people crossing the Channel are not in genuine need of protection 

Channel crossings overall have reduced by 20% from last year, driven by the reduction in Albanians making the journey, who account for 3% of crossings this year (compared to 35% in the same period in 2022). But across other nationalities, there has been a 19% increase in people crossing the Channel in the first eight months of 2023 (19,441 compared to an estimated 16,275 in 2022).  

The Refugee Council also warns that by shutting down the asylum system, the Illegal Migration Act will mean that people can’t be removed to their country of origin. Tens of thousands of refugees risk being left in ‘permanent limbo’ by not having their asylum claims considered. Only around 3.5% of arrivals could be removed under the new legislation.  

Even if the Government wins in the Supreme Court case on the Rwanda agreement, and Rwanda has the capacity to receive 10,000 people every year, it would still mean that over 25,000 people each year would be left in a state of permanent limbo, at risk of destitution, exploitation and abuse, and likely to disappear into the margins of society. 

It should be noted that since the Act was passed on 20 July, 10,222 people have crossed the Channel who the Government would seek to remove to Rwanda.

Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said:  

“The reality is that the men, women and children who come to the UK by taking terrifying journeys across the world’s busiest shipping lane are desperately seeking safety, having fled persecution, terror and oppression. They have not just lost their homes and livelihoods, but have faced many atrocities including torture, sexual coercion, slavery and exploitation. 

“Instead of slamming our door in their face and extinguishing the right to asylum, we should be upholding the great British values of fairness and compassion, ensuring they are given a fair hearing on UK soil and welcoming those who need our protection. For those who are not found to be refugees, we should support them to return with dignity and humanity.  

Closing down the asylum system will simply result in vast cost, chaos and human misery with tens of thousands of people stuck in permanent limbo, likely to disappear into the margins of our communities, at risk of destitution, exploitation and abuse.”