Skip to main content
Skip to main content

Refugee Council: Majority of asylum seekers crossing the Channel are likely to be recognised as being in genuine need of protection


Over 91% of those arriving are from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Vietnam, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Yemen or Ethiopia

Date of Publication:
18 November 2021

Refugee Council: Majority of asylum seekers crossing the Channel are likely to be recognised as being in genuine need of protection

18 November 2021

The Refugee Council yesterday published brief new analysis looking at small boat Channel crossings to the UK from France by asylum seekers and the outcomes of their claims. It finds that a majority of those crossing the Channel would likely be recognised as being in genuine need of protection, despite the Home Secretary saying most are economic migrants.

BoatThe 12-page briefing can be read here.

As the Refugee Council notes, the use of small boats has so far represented a change in the method by which asylum seekers primarily enter the UK rather than an additional method causing an increase in numbers.

In fact, the overall number of people claiming asylum in the UK in the year ending June 2021 was 4% lower than the previous year.

The Refugee Council says increased security at the freight terminals around Calais is the main reason behind the shift to Channel boat crossings as the primary method used to enter the UK.

As people crossing the Channel in small boats and arriving on the coasts of Dover are far more visible than previous clandestine entry methods, this has resulted in the significantly increased media attention the issue has received. This in turn increases the political pressure on the Government to address the issue.

In its briefing, the Refugee Council details what is known about who is coming across the Channel in small boats, and the likely outcome of any asylum claim they make. The briefing uses data from the government's official quarterly immigration statistics along with data obtained from Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

Nearly all (98%) of people who arrive after crossing the Channel in a small boat make a claim for asylum.

Using data from January 2020 to May 2021, the briefing details that over 91% of the total small boat arrivals came from just ten countries of origin: Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Vietnam, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Yemen and Ethiopia.

The Refugee Council says this mean it is likely that the majority of those crossing the Channel would be recognised as being in need of protection at the initial decision stage of their asylum claim.

The briefing explains: "Examination of the data for the grant rates at initial decision stage for decisions made in the period Jan 2020 – June 2021 (the closest available data to align with the arrival data […]) shows that for the top 10 countries of origin arriving by small boat, 61% of initial decisions made from Jan 2020 to June 2021 would have resulted in refugee protection being granted (a grant of protection being refugee status or humanitarian protection). This compares to grant rate of 52% for decisions made for all nationalities in the same period."

In contrast, Home Secretary Priti Patel told the House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee last month that the majority of those arriving by small boats were not genuine asylum seekers.

Patel said: "We see—all the data and evidence has shown this—that in the last 12 months alone 70% of the individuals who have come to our country illegally via small boats are single men, who are effectively economic migrants. They are not genuine asylum seekers. They are able to pay the smugglers and get in contact with the gangs, whether they are in northern France or Germany. These are the ones who are elbowing out the women and children, who are at risk and fleeing persecution."

Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said yesterday: "The reality is that people who come to the UK by taking terrifying journeys in small boats across the Channel do so because they are desperately seeking safety having fled persecution, terror and oppression. Their lives have been turned upside down through no fault of their own and they are exploited by callous people smugglers."

Meanwhile, it was a case of déjà vu in The Times today following a front page story that the UK is hoping to seal an agreement to send those crossing the Channel to Albania for off-shore processing of their asylum claims.

In a repeat of what happened last month following a similar story in The Sun (see our report on EIN here), Albania's Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Olta Xhaçka, took to Twitter to deny the story and call it the "same old fake news".

The Albanian ambassador to the UK, Qirjako Qirko, told The Independent that the story was "100 per cent fake".

Qirko added: "I have a legal background and I know very well the convention for asylum seekers and what the regulations are. We would never do something like this with immigrants because it's against the international law."