Home Affairs Select Committee oral evidence on Channel Crossings - Refugee Council response - Refugee Council
October 26, 2022

Home Affairs Select Committee oral evidence on Channel Crossings – Refugee Council response

Today (Wednesday 26th October) saw the Home Affairs Select Committee hold two oral evidence sessions about the ongoing issue of Channel crossings and other key asylum issues.

Key issues to note include:

Numbers of those crossing the Channel:

  • In 2022, 38,000 people arrived in the UK travelling in 936 boats. There was a particularly large increase in numbers in August and September.
  • France has so far this year stopped 28,000 people and intercepted and destroyed 1,072 boats which is approximately double number of boats stopped compared to 2021.
  • 93% of the above have claimed asylum; in 2021 it was 98%.
  • Of the 2021 arrivals by small boat – 85% were granted asylum of those claims that have been completed. But worryingly 96% have not been completed and are still awaiting a decision. Our real concern is that these cases are being added to an already very large backlog of cases.
  • Only a tiny proportion (4%) of those who arrived by boat in 2021 have had a decision on their claim.
  • One MP gave a shocking example of a constituent who had still not had their initial interview in two years.

Manston accommodation centre:

  •  Manston now holds approximately 3,000 people – the maximum number held is meant to be 1,600. Worryingly, this is a larger population than in any prison in the UK. The overuse is due to a lack of outflow from the system and an increase in the length of time people stay there (despite rules only allowing a 24 hour stay). One example was given of a 17-year old staying there for 19 days, which is in fact unlawful. Another case of someone having stayed there for a whole month.
  • Reports of Diphtheria in Manston were confirmed, though the numbers remain low.
  • The cost of hotel use has soared to £5.6 million per day, and is likely to go up. That is just for people seeking asylum. Housing Afghans in hotels costs an additional £1.2 million per day
  • Non-specialist staff without appropriate training are now working to guard the numbers, which is incredibly alarming. The current numbers at Manston present a potential fire risk, a risk of disorder as well as health risks.
  • The ICIBI noted that they spoke to an Afghan family who had been in a marquee for 32 days. Another Iraqi family there for two weeks, with young children.
  • Although preparations are being made to open a cookhouse, it is not yet operational. This means there are concerns about the quality of food that is available to people over longer periods of time, and whether the food that is made available is culturally appropriate.

Responding to these evidence sessions, Tamsin Baxter, Executive Director of External Affairs at the Refugee Council, said:

“That only 4% of those arriving by boat to claim asylum in 2021 have had a decision on their asylum claim is appalling and indicative of an asylum system in urgent need of reform. The Home Office is already sitting on a backlog of more than 100,000 people awaiting an initial decision.

“The asylum backlog causes misery for every person waiting months, years even for news of their fate, unable to work or move on with their lives. It is also causing a concerningly high number of people to be crammed into hotel accommodation, now costing a staggering £5.6 million a day. Hotels are completely unsuitable for housing vulnerable men, women, and children and sees people shunted around the country as hotels open and close.

“The returning Home Secretary and new Immigration Minister must now prioritise the asylum backlog as a matter of urgency. Doing so would start to restore confidence in the Home Office, save large sums of money and provide a genuine level of support for people who have fled war and persecution to seek safety in the UK.”