The Home Secretary told a Parliamentary Committee that those crossing the Channel have previously rejected the option of seeking asylum while passing through safe countries.
Ms Patel said ‘migrants had journeyed through other countries which were safe refuges’. She added: “France is a safe country, Germany is a safe country, Italy is a safe country, and people should be claiming asylum in those countries.” Here is the full transcript of the evidence session. Watch the session on video.
More recently, Home Office evidence to Parliament revealed that 81% of those illegally crossing the Channel in 2020 who claimed asylum and whose claim was considered were REFUSED protection.
As a senior Home Office official told the Home Affairs Committee on 3 September 2020: “Of those crossing this year, 98% claimed asylum… That was a very large majority. To date, 50% of those claims have been considered. Of those, 20% of those have been granted, 10% have been refused and a further 71% have been refused because we are not the responsible country, i.e., they have travelled through a safe country before they came here.” (Government evidence to Parliamentary Committee).
Only 3% of those arriving in this way since the start of 2019 have been returned (less than 200 out of 7,660 arrivals during that period). That’s one in every 38.
Given that those illegally crossing the Channel are, by and large, not to be treated as refugees, why are more such entrants not immediately removed?
Those who claim refuge after entering this way are abusing our beleaguered asylum system urged on by, and for the profit of, cold-blooded criminal traffickers. Why does the government allow it?
Why should illegal entrants be allowed to unfairly exploit a system that is meant to be reserved only for the truly vulnerable?
Why should they be given free housing (costing nearly £4bn in taxpayers money over the next decade), and a segment of the nearly £100 million in cash payments per year that claimants receive?
Given they failed to seek asylum in other safe countries, the motivation of those crossing cannot be to find safety. It can only be illegal entry.
So why are they able to skip the queue in front of law-abiding migrants who patiently wait in line and pay through the nose in visa fees? That is grossly unfair.
Meanwhile, it is likely that a sizeable portion of those crossing the Channel have no grounds to claim refuge in any country because they are not fleeing danger.
Previous estimates (for instance by a top EU official) suggested 60% of illegal migrants who entered the EU during one month in 2015 were economic migrants who were not entitled to asylum or humanitarian protection (see article).
In addition, the charity, Human Relief Foundation, visited Calais a few years ago and found many people there were not refugees at all, but economic migrants. Deputy chief executive Kassim Tokan was quoted as saying many migrants in Calais had no ‘valid’ reason for going to the UK and should have stayed at home.
Separately, Andrew Gwynne MP put Migration Watch UK’s Channel Crossing estimates to the Home Secretary and asked her if she accepted our figures. Ms Patel responded:
‘I do not have those in front of me. I see figures on a daily basis on small boat crossings, because I see not just the data but every single incident report that comes in. What I would say, and I will be very clear about it, is that these numbers are shocking, appalling and unacceptably high. Shona Dunn is leading on a team who are working specifically on this. I can also say that as of 2 July there are 166 arrivals with a Eurodat hit who are ready to be returned to Italy, Germany and France, and we have already made return requests for a further 577 people who have come into the country this year alone.
‘The figures are unacceptable. We have a major problem with these small boats and the route itself. I was in Calais on Sunday morning, and I can tell you right now that we want to end the viability of that route because of other measures that have been put in place over recent years—lorry drops, for example. There will be more measures and more checks at various borders, even in Belgium. We are working with the Belgian authorities as well to try to stop and prevent the facilitation of people trafficking through lorries.
‘This route is incredibly problematic. We cannot sugar coat it; it is absolutely problematic. I have seen for myself along the roads in Calais camps that have been set up. The French authorities, through the Sandhurst agreement that has been put in place, are clearing camps, but actually all it is leading to is greater displacement. We have also seen that individuals who we have returned back to France will still try to come over again. We have repeat people who have tried to come over again, which is why, because we do have data on these individuals, we are so persistent in returning them.
The fact of the matter is that France is a safe country, Germany is a safe country, Italy is a safe country, and people should be claiming asylum in those countries.’