Refugee Council statement on Channel crossings in 2023 - Refugee Council
January 2, 2024

Refugee Council statement on Channel crossings in 2023

Refugee Council analysis shows that: 

  • The number of people who crossed the Channel in 2023 (29,437)is just over a third less than in 2022 when 45,774 made the crossing and slightly higher than the number in 2021 when 28,526 crossed the Channel.1 
  • Nearly three-quarters(72%) of people who made the crossing in 2023 (January to end of November) came from just seven countries – Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Eritrea, Iraq, Syria and Sudan where conflict, persecution and oppression is well documented. One in five (19%) were from Afghanistan.2 
  • The number of Albanians crossing the Channel in 2023 is significantly lower than in 2022, accounting for much of the year-on-year decline in crossings. In 2022, 12,658 Albanians crossed the Channel. In 2023 (Jan to end of Nov) only 922 3 
  • Analysis of asylum decisionsin 2023 (Jan to end of Sept) shows that three in every four people (76%) would be recognised as refugees if the Government processed their asylum applications.4  
  • Those who crossed the Channel since the Illegal Migration Act was passed in July – just over 15,000 5are awaiting removal to Rwanda and will be left in limbo for months and years on end if they are not sent to the East African country. 
  • Research with 40 organisations supporting people in the UK asylum system, including those working with people in northern France, finds that the Rwanda plan and the new legislation are driving vulnerable people underground, and having a severe negative impact on people’s mental health.6


Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said:   

“The men, women and children from countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and Iran who took terrifying journeys in 2023 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 appalling 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. We know refugees are already avoiding contact with vital services and face being exploited and abused by those seeking to coerce and traffic them. 

“We urge the Government to uphold the right to asylum and expand safe routes, including reuniting families torn apart by conflict and providing humanitarian visas, as well as doing far more to work globally to address the conflict and instability that cause people to become refugees.” 



2 (to end November 2023)

3 Ibid 

4 Asylum and Resettlement – Applications, Initial decisions, and Resettlement, table asy_d02. Initial decision grant rates are for main applicants and exclude withdrawn applications. Time Series ODS.