13 January, 2023
1.Since 2018, England’s southern coast has experienced frequent, often daily, crossing of immigrants arriving in the United Kingdom illegally via small boats holding anything from five to fifty or more people. This year, it has emerged that a significant number of these individuals have been making claims of modern slavery. In 2021, there were 8,388 referrals for foreign nationals, of which 23 per cent came via small boat. According to former immigration minister Chris Philp MP, this is done because a low burden of proof makes it difficult for caseworkers to dismiss false claims.
2.In previous work by Migration Watch UK, it was shown that a certain group, Albanians, coming from a safe country had become the single largest nationality being referred for modern slavery under the National Referral Mechanism. This paper follows on from that to show the link between those claims and illegal small boat crossings using Freedom of Information data.
Table 1: Number of SBMS referrals, 2018-End of June 2022 (Source: Freedom of Information release, December 2022)
|Year of arrival||Total||Of total crossings (%)|
|2022 to June||1,156||9.1|
|Total 2018 to 2022||4,449||8.6|
3.Table 1 above shows the number of individuals for each year since Channel crossings began in their current form that are identified as potential victims of modern slavery, whether immediately or at a later date (including, for example, if their presence in the UK is not detected upon making landfall).
4.As Table 1 above shows, the number of small boat arrivals to be referred as a potential modern slavery has grown significantly since 2018, although peaking as a proportion of the total in 2020 at 14 per cent of the total crossings that year.
5.By June 2022, the number of SBMS claimants had already reached near-parity with 2020, and is likely to have surpassed the 1,946 of 2021 by the end of the year.
Table 2: Top nationalities among SBMS referrals 2019-End of June 2022 (%)
|Country||2019||Country||2020||Country||2021||Country||2022 to June|
|All other nationalities||6.9||Iraq||8.3||Sudan||11.3||Iran||6.1|
6.Above, Table 2 shows the national groups being referred the most in each year by percentage (the full list is available in Annex A). 2019 shows only three nationalities due to a low number of SBMS referrals that year.
7.In the first half of 2022 (which had around seven times more crossings than 2019), over half of the SBMS referrals concerned Albanians, a NATO member and aspiring European Union member state. This amounted to 591 referrals for Albanians in the first half of 2022.
8.Over the three and a half years covered by Table 2, Iranian is the only nationality to have been consistently represented in the top five. There were about 613 referrals by Iranians over the period, with the highest number in 2021 when there were 222 referrals.
9.Overall, the 74.2 per cent of referrals by Iranians in 2019, when there were 118 such referrals, is the largest proportion recorded for a single nationality. Although, this occurred in a year when illegal Channel crossings remained relatively low.
Table 3: Number of SBMS referrals to have received Positive Conclusive Grounds
|Outcome||2018||2019||2020||2021||2022 to June|
|Positive Conclusive Grounds||5||51||123||73||38|
|Balanced % of the total||45||45||22.5||30||-|
10.Table 3 above shows the number of SBMS referrals arriving in each year to have subsequently received Positive Conclusive Grounds for their claims. That is to say, those who have been acknowledged as victims of modern slavery, including those who may have appealed an initial rejection.
11.2020 was the year in which the most, so far, have received positive conclusions when a high number of Sudanese made the crossings.
12.These figures may not be representative of the final SBMS grant rate because the data do not show the number of cases yet to receive a conclusive grounds decision. However, by balancing out the claims against the overall number of asylum claimants to have had their claims settled, we are able to create an approximate estimate of the total SBMS claimants to have their claims approved in each year as shown in the final row of Table 3 (see the methodology section below for a full explanation of how this estimate has been reached).
13.This indicates that over half of SBMS referrals are rejected or withdrawn, growing to over 75 per cent from the 2020 cohort.
14.All the data within this briefing, unless otherwise referenced, comes from a Freedom of Information request submitted on the 17th of August 2022, and fulfilled on the 8th of December 2022. The full data from that request as provided is available in Annex A.
15.The estimate of final Positive Conclusive Ground referrals accompanying Table 3 is reached according to the following. As the asylum application backlog has passed 100,000 and includes applications going back several years, the data provided is an insufficient hallmark of final approved claims unless it is re-balanced to account for this. As such, the proportion of asylum claims from each year still outstanding as of June 2022 is identified. That proportion is then deducted from the total number of SBMS referrals made that year. This leaves those known to have received a positive conclusion, and those that will have been rejected or withdrawn while excluding completely those which may still be awaiting a final conclusion.
16.Below are the percentages of total asylum claims from each year still awaiting a final grounds decision and the equivalent number of claims to be deducted from the annual totals in line with the above explanation.
|Applications awaiting a decision (%)||11.74||28.84||53.49||93.55|
|Claims deducted from estimate calculation||1||46||629||1,820|
Freedom of Information Request reference: 71409
1. Amongst migrants arriving in the UK via small boat crossings, what number claimed to be victims of modern slavery?
|Year of arrival||Total|
|2022 up to 30th June||1156|
2. Please break down the number of migrants coming to the UK via small boat crossings by birth country who have claimed to be victims of modern slavery.
|Central African Republic||<5||<5|
3. Of those migrants arriving in the UK via small boat crossings from 2017 onwards claiming to be victims of modern slavery, how many were judged to be genuine victims of modern slavery.
The figures in table 3 only show cases which have received a Positive Conclusive Grounds decision as of 30th June 2022. It does not show the number of cases yet to receive a Conclusive Grounds decision.
|Positive Conclusive Grounds||5||51||123||73||38|