UK government has processed just 1% of asylum applications from small boat migrants last year

FILE - Migrants successfully cross the English Channel to reach the U.K. from the European mainland.
By Thomas Brooke
5 Min Read

The U.K. Home Office has processed just 1 percent of the 45,000 individuals who entered Britain illegally and claimed asylum in the year to March, government figures revealed.

The data published on Thursday regarding the status of irregular migrants in Britain showed that 44,797 people that the government is aware of arrived on England’s southern shore via small boats from mainland Europe in the year to March 2023. Of those, 40,444 claimed asylum.

As of May 25, the government had only processed 504 claims, just over 1 percent of cases in the past year, granting asylum in 61 percent of those cases.

In fact, the government has only processed 16 percent of the 11,902 asylum cases submitted by small boat migrants dating back to 2018, meaning some of the 88,221 individuals arriving in Britain using this method have potentially been waiting five years for a decision on their asylum application.

The overall grant rate for small boat migrants over the past five years has been 64 percent.

Just 1,266 applications have been refused, and it is unclear how many of these individuals have been removed from the country.

The asylum crisis in Britain has been a prominent topic within the wider political debate for some years, with the number of individuals arriving via the English Channel and applying for asylum increasing each year for the past five years.

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With saturated local services across the country, the Home Office, through its contractor, Serco, has used taxpayers’ cash to accommodate tens of thousands of asylum applicants in hotels throughout the country with an estimated cost of £7 million per day.

The move led to some protests outside such facilities, with unhappy local residents voicing their displeasure at what was promised to be a temporary solution.

In an initial attempt to speed up processing rates, the Home Office announced in February a new fast-track application process for nationals of Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Yemen who arrived in Britain before June 28, 2022. Under the scheme, more than 12,000 asylum applicants were permitted to bypass an immigration interview and be granted refugee status off the back of a questionnaire in which they promise to tell the truth about their circumstances.

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The following month, after a considerable backlash to housing migrants in hotels from both the governing Conservative party’s backbenchers and the wider public, the government announced a new policy to relocate migrants living in hotel accommodations to decommissioned military bases and disused ferries. This policy, too, was widely criticized after it emerged that one military base being considered to house migrants was RAF Scampton, the Lincolnshire air base and famous home to the 617 Squadron — better known as The Dambusters — who conducted perilous air raids on key German infrastructure during World War II.

A number of prominent historians and academics, as well as the local community, expressed their outrage at the plans, particularly as the move would jeopardize an agreed £300 million plan to transform the base into a heritage site.

So, the government turned to floating barges capable of accommodating 500 migrants each and anchoring them around the country. One such barge is planned for the Dorset isle of Portland, which again has been protested against by local residents and the local Conservative MP Richard Drax, who revealed the local council was considering legal action to block the plans.

Despite the stagnant processing rate of asylum applicants already residing in Britain, the rate of new arrivals shows no signs of slowing down.

Migrants continue to be located in the English Channel and escorted to Britain by the U.K.’s Border Force on a daily basis, despite government plans to crack down on illegal immigration through its proposed Illegal Migration Bill, which would give authorities the power to detain and deport all newcomers who arrive irregularly.

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