There have been over seven million asylum applications to EU countries since 2008, while there have been over two million illegal border crossings into the EU since the start of 2014. The vast majority of those entering in this way will have claimed asylum. This wider European crisis has a knock-on effect in the UK, with illegal Channel crossings skyrocketing and a massive rise in abuse of our asylum system by people who do not have a credible claim in the UK.
The Home Office itself pointed to large-scale and growing exploitation of our overwhelmed asylum system, which has around 110,000 outstanding cases, including 40,000 failed claimants who have no right to be in the UK.
The government has indicated, using statistics released earlier this year, that thousands of asylum seekers (just under a fifth, or 6,000 people in 2019, including small boat arrivals) had already claimed asylum in another safe European country (see p.5 of Home Office ‘New Plan for Immigration’, Mar. 2021). A number will have been rejected claimants – some having made bogus applications. They should have been returned from Europe to their safe places of origin without delay instead of being allowed to move on to the UK in trips that have costed lives.
Another indication of asylum abuse is the fact that, as Channel Threat Commander Dan O’Mahoney has told a Parliamentary Committee, it is standard practice for migrants (often urged by people smugglers) to deliberately destroy their documentation prior to reaching the UK (see transcript of evidence before Home Affairs Select Committee, September 2020). If those crossing were genuine refugees, by and large, surely they would want to be properly identified. However, the lack of identification does entail a public safety nightmare for the UK since it is incredibly challenging to properly vet those coming in via this illegal route unless their fingerprints are on file.
Meanwhile, the Home Office also note that the share of law-breakers claiming asylum while in UK detention rose by 15 percentage points (2017-19). But of asylum claims made, for instance, by immigration offenders and foreign national offenders leaving detention in 2017, over 90% were not granted at initial decision. Despite this, almost all of those claiming asylum are being released into the community, allowing many to abscond never to be found again.
Judges – Lady Justice Sharp and Mr Justice Green – have pointed to misconduct among some immigration lawyers who start court hearings to thwart attempts to remove failed asylum seekers (see Policy Exchange, Border Audit, July 2018).
And the former independent border watchdog wrote in 2017: ‘There is… considerable evidence of individuals who have been issued with removal directions making “last minute” asylum claims… in order to frustrate planned removals.’
This is an unacceptable abuse of a well-intentioned framework that is meant to help only the truly vulnerable with no option but to directly escape from persecution to the most easily accessible place of refuge. No wonder this bloated and mishandled scheme is now costing taxpayers £1.3 billion per year, including hundreds of millions of pounds in housing and payments for over 60,000 asylum claimants and rejected applicants.
As for small boat crossings, of those who crossed and claimed in first half of 2020, 71% were refused because the UK was not deemed as the responsible country (as the claimant had already passed through and may have already submitted an application in another safe European country, possibly also being rejected) and another 10% were refused on their merit (so 80% overall were deemed as not credible here in the UK) – see evidence by UKVI head Abi Tierney, Sept 2020.
The government issued 4,500 notices of intent for inadmissibility regarding asylum claimants who were suspected of having a connection to safe EU countries (and possibly already claiming, and being rejected, for asylum there) during the period January-June 2021. Home Office asylum statistics.
Finally, two in three ‘child’ asylum claimants whose age was challenged found to be 18 or older (Q2, 2021). This is obviously very concerning from a child protection point of view. Child protection measures should be reserved only for genuine minors – Home Office age assessment statistics. It is also hugely problematic for councils, such as Kent Council, which are now being overwhelmed with the requirement to care for ‘child’ claimants many of whom are turning out to actually be adults!
The problem with major and growing asylum abuse is that it crowds out genuine refugees, and is a source of deep injustice for law-abiding UK citizens who pay taxes and expect these processes not to be exploited by those who wish to scam the system, including criminal gangs of people-smugglers.
That is why the government must stamp out rampant and increasing asylum abuse Stopping the boats would of course save lives, but it would also help to end this bitter reality of mass exploitation of a well-intentioned programme.