Government Admits Illegal Immigration Nearly Tripled In Four Years


For months we’ve been keeping track of reported illegal entries with our Channel Tracking Station.

Now these figures have been essentially echoed by the Home Office after it released its first ever statistics detailing irregular migration to the UK – this bulletin covering the full year 2021.

On boats, they confirmed the numbers in our tracking station (in fact in 2021 they were slightly more than our estimate – at 28,526 versus our 28,401, and in fact their bulletin strongly resembles our tracking station. We are glad to have helped show the government that they need to be more up front and honest about what is occurring at the border. But their bid to hide the daily boat crossing data is completely outrageous and you can sign the petition to make your objections clear here.

The newly released Home Office figures reinforce our warnings that that there has been a huge rise in illegal immigration in recent years, from 13,000 in 2018 to more than 35,000 in 2021.

They also show that we have counted the boats and numbers of people in them rather accurately since starting the Tracking Station in May 2020. We said over 1,000 boats arrived in 2021. The Home Office noted that 1,034 crossed. And as the year went on the boats got bigger, just as we said.

We released a paper today showing that just 2% of those who have illegally made their way to the UK illegally in small boats via the English Channel were found to be in possession of a passport at the time of being processed in the UK (see paper).

While boat arrivals have shot up, illegal lorry entries seem to have run at about 30,000 since 2018 – broadly in line with our own recent estimate.

Both routes are dangerous and illegal and harm the UK.

Things are very going in completely the wrong direction. It is up to the government now to ensure that true control of our borders is established urgently.

It should also be remembered that the numbers only refer to those making their way illegally (mostly) in boats and backs of lorries. Those who enter for limited stays and don’t leave are separate and add significantly to the population of those who are here but have no permission to be in the UK (see our paper on overstaying and also our longer paper on what can be done about illegal immigration).

Figure 1: Number of small boats and average number of people per boat arriving in the UK, 2018 – 2021

Figure 2: Detections at the UK border, by method of entry, 2018 – 2021

On lorries, they confirmed that about 30,000 people arrived this way over the past four years. While they say 29,519 came in this period, our finding (based on partial information and estimates) was that 33,000 people came this way in that period.

The figures they give are:


However, the Home Office’s figures released today conflict with those published by the independent borders watchdog and previous freedom of information releases which suggested that hundreds more people came in lorries than are being admitted now.

24th February 2022 - Asylum, Enforcement, Housing, Legal Matters, Migration Trends, Policy

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