Data analysis by the Refugee Council contradicts claims by the UK government that most people crossing the English Channel are ‘economic migrants’.
An analysis by UK non-profit the Refugee Council shows that most people crossing the English Channel are refugees and not economic migrants, contradicting claims by the UK government.
The study published on Wednesday cross-analyses Freedom of Information data and Home Office statistics for the period between January 2020 and May 2021. It shows that 91 percent of the people who crossed the Channel in small boats during that period came from ten countries affected by conflict and where human rights abuses are common. They include Iran, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Yemen.
Nationals of those top ten countries are likely to be granted protection - 61 percent of the claims analysed for the period in question received a positive initial decision from the Home Office.
“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,” said Refugee Council CEO Enver Solomon. “The report calls into question the government and Home Office’s narrative that the majority of people crossing the Channel are not in genuine need of protection.”
The research comes as the UK’s controversial Nationality and Borders bill reaches the final stages of its passage through Parliament. The bill would create a two-tier asylum system that would see asylum seekers who have entered the country illegally – including those who cross the Channel in small rafts from France – receive a “lower class” refugee status.
Refugee rights groups and the UNHCR have slammed the bill, which would also allow asylum seekers to be returned to third countries they have passed through, as being against the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has promised to crack down on Channel crossings. Patel stirred controversy in October with claims that “70% of individuals on small boats are single men who are effectively economic migrants.”
MPs and refugee charities pointed out that the claims were not substantiated with evidence, expressing concern about false information being presented to the public on the issue of migrant crossings.
So far this year, more than 23,000 people are estimated to have taken the journey across the English Channel, a sharp increase from just over 8,000 recorded the previous year.
For comparison, nearly 100,000 refugees and migrants arrived by sea to Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta.