‘Majority’ of migrants crossing the Channel are refugees, report reveals

A new report by UK charity Refugee Council has found the ‘majority’ of people crossing the Channel on small boats are refugees in need of protection – not ‘economic migrants’ as the government has claimed British.

A quarter of arrivals on small boats that have crossed the Channel are from Iran, a report by the UK charity Refugee Council has revealed [Getty]

The “majority” of men, women and children crossing the Channel in small boats are migrants in real need of protection, according to a report by the British charity Refugee Council published on Wednesday.

The report – ‘An Analysis of Channel Crossings and Asylum Outcomes’ – found that 91% of people on the small boats come from just ten countries, including several in the Middle East and North Africa .

These top ten countries, including Iran, Iraq and Syria, have a high rate of successful asylum claims, with 61% likely to obtain protection upon initial decision and 59% on appeal.

This evidence formed the Refugee Council’s conclusion that the majority of migrants crossing the Channel are ‘likely’ to obtain protection, contradicting statements by the UK Home Office that they are primarily ‘economic migrants’ determined to exploit the system.

“The reality is that people who come to the UK on terrifying journeys in small boats across the English Channel do so because they are desperate for safety after fleeing persecution, terror and oppression,” said Refugee Council CEO Enver Solomon.

The charity’s findings undermined oral evidence from UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, who spoke to the House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee in October 2021 and said “All the data and evidence has shown… that in the last 12 months only 70% of people who entered our country illegally via small boats are single men, who are in fact economic migrants. They are not genuine asylum seekers.

It is estimated that more than 23,000 people have made the dangerous journey across the English Channel this year, breaking records from previous years.

Ninety-eight percent of those crossing seek asylum, according to the Refugee Council, and often only take the perilous journey for lack of safer alternatives.

The report also revealed that 26% of arrivals on small boats were from Iran, a country with a history of human rights abuses. Other countries of origin for people crossing the Channel are Iraq, Sudan and Syria, in that order.

Solomon said the British government should “show compassion” for the refugees “rather than seek to push them back cruelly…or punish them with imprisonment”.

“There must be an ambitious expansion of safe routes so people don’t have to make dangerous journeys to reach safety,” he added.

The British government has repeatedly presented the increased number of Channel crossings as a reason to push forward its Nationality and Borders Bill.

The bill contains punitive measures aimed at discouraging people from taking “irregular” routes, such as crossing the English Channel. It also allows the UK government to return migrants to third countries they have passed through, even if they have no connection to the country.

Refugee groups, such as the Refugee Council, have criticized the bill for penalizing vulnerable migrants and for breaching the 1951 Refugee Convention.

The Refugee Council has called for a ‘humanitarian visa system’ so that migrants can apply for visas with the aim of seeking asylum and greater recognition that people in desperate circumstances have no choice but to embark on perilous journeys.