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How many people cross the Channel in small boats and how many claim asylum?

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that “stopping the boats” bringing migrants to the UK is a key political priority.Record numbers of people have crossed the English Channel in recent years, and the government has proposed a number of measures it hopes will tackle the issue.How many people cross the Channel in small boats?Small boat arrivals accounted for about 45% of asylum applications made in 2022.In total, 45,755 migrants crossed the Channel that year, the highest number since figures began to be collected in 2018.As at 2 July, 11,400 people had crossed in 2023. That figure includes 3,824 in June, the highest number for any June on record.A line chart, where each line represents a year from 2019 to 2023, showing the cumulative number of people detected crossing the English Channel on small boats between January and December. The total gets progressively higher year-on-year, with nearly 46,000 people detected by the end of 2022. The 2023 data is about 11,400 as of 2 July, slightly below the levels seen at the same time in 2022.How many people seek asylum in the UK?The number of applications – including dependents – reached about 103,000 in 2002, as people fled conflicts in Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq.Applications then fell sharply, dropping to a 20-year low of 22,600 in 2010.However, numbers rose again throughout the 2010s, as refugees fled Syria.In 2022, more than 89,000 people requested asylum.Chart showing numbers of asylum seekers (March 2023)Where do asylum seekers come from?In 2022, the highest number of asylum applications came from Albania: nearly 16,000 people, including dependants. Most (67%) arrived on small boats.The government calls Albania a “safe country” and has announced measures to try to reduce these numbers.The second largest group, with just under 10,900 applications, came from Afghanistan, followed by Iran, Iraq and Syria.Chart showing UK asylum seekers by nationality (March 2023)Ukrainian refugees leaving after Russian’s invasion are not included in the figures.In March 2022, two legal routes opened for those fleeing the war to come to the UK: the Ukraine Family Scheme and the Homes for Ukraine scheme.As at 27 June 2023, 223,600 visas had been issued under the schemes, with 178,900 Ukrainians arriving in the UK.There are separate arrangements for a few other specific groups, such as Afghan refugees and some Hong Kong citizens.What are the legal routes to the UK?How quickly are asylum cases processed and how big is the backlog?Some people wait months or even years for their claims to be considered.In 2021, the average wait in the UK was 15.5 months, according to the Oxford Migration Observatory think tank.By comparison, it was 8.5 months in France, 6.5 months in Germany and just over three months in Austria.The delay in the UK has created a backlog of more than 172,000 people. The prime minister has pledged to clear much of this by the end of 2023.Chart showing the backlog of asylum cases (March 2023)People are generally not allowed to work while their claim is being processed.If they have been waiting for more than 12 months for an initial decision, they can apply for permission to work. If granted, they can only do jobs on the UK shortage occupation list.EU countries allow applicants to work after they have been waiting for nine months.In the UK, many asylum seekers are housed in hotels, due to lack of other suitable accommodation, at an estimated cost of £6m a day.In March 2023, the government announced plans to use three ex-military bases to accommodate several thousand migrants in an attempt to reduce costs.What’s behind the Home Office migrant backlog?Why does the UK want to send asylum seekers to Rwanda?Is Sunak keeping his five key promises?How many people does the UK send back?The Home Office has the power to remove people who have no legal right to stay in the UK.Returnees include rejected asylum seekers, people who have entered the UK without authorisation, those who have stayed in the country longer than their visa allows, and foreign national offenders.
In 2022, there were nearly 38,000 total returns. Of these:
3,860 were enforced returns, 46% fewer than in 2019 (7,198)
10,710 were voluntary returns, 15% fewer than in 2019 (12,574)
23,378 passengers were refused entry on arrival at ports, and were later departed
The vast majority of enforced returns related to foreign national offenders, and almost half (49%) were EU nationals.Of the top five nationalities forcibly returned, four European countries accounted for more than half:
Albania (25%)
Romania (18%)
Poland (8%)
Lithuania (7%)
Brazil (10%) was the only non-European nationality in the top five.There were 2,866 returns of people who had previously claimed asylum in the UK. Asylum-related returns accounted for 8% of returns of all types in this period.How does the UK’s record compare with other European countries?The latest figures show that in 2022, the UK had the fifth highest number of asylum applications in Europe, behind Germany, France, Spain and Austria.With 217,735 applications, Germany had a quarter of all first-time asylum applications within the EU.France had the second highest number of applications. (137,510) followed by Spain (116,135) and Austria (106,380).In 2022, the UK authorities made initial decisions on 18,699 asylum applications and granted 14,211 of them (76%).Germany made 197,540 asylum decisions, and granted more than 50% of them.France – a country with a similar-sized population to the UK – made 129,735 decisions, and also granted more than 50%.What is the difference between an asylum seeker and a migrant?An asylum seeker is someone who has applied for protection in another country because they are fleeing persecution – or the fear of persecution.If they are successful, they are granted leave to remain in the country where they sought refuge. If their application is refused, they can be removed.A migrant refers to someone who has left their country of origin and has not claimed asylum. Some migrants leave their countries for work or study.An illegal migrant is someone who entered the UK illegally (ie without a visa or prior permission) or someone who entered legally but remained in the country after their visa expired.

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