Unauthorised Channel arrivals set to cost taxpayers nearly a quarter of a billion pounds in housing and payments

November 18, 2020

Housing and payments for those crossing the Channel in an unauthorised manner may be set to cost the UK taxpayer around £240 million over the next decade unless the scale of arrivals is stemmed.

That is the finding of a Migration Watch UK paper (MW485: An Asylum System Overwhelmed and Abused) which also finds that the asylum system is rapidly becoming overwhelmed in the midst of ballooning backlogs and budgets, falling productivity, significant and worsening abuse and disintegrating enforcement.

The estimated cost of asylum-related housing and payments for nearly half of those who claim protection after crossing the Channel is estimated to be just under £24 million per year - nearly £240 million over a decade - should the crossings continue on their present scale (around 8,500 people were reported as having arrived via this illegal route over the past 12 months - see Migration Watch UK's Channel Tracking Station), several times higher than the previous year.

For more on the above calculation see paragraphs 38 to 43 of the attached paper.

The public will find this particularly galling in light of the fact that 81% of Channel arrivals have been found not to have a credible asylum claim in the UK (Home Office figures for Q1 and Q2 2020).

Nevertheless, unauthorised Channel crossings began to have a major impact on the numbers housed in hotels and hostels (so-called 'initial accommodation') from mid-2019 - well before the Covid crisis struck.

The vast majority of those who enter via this illegal route are also not being removed. Despite a clear promise by the Prime Minister in August 2019 to ‘send back’ those arriving in this way, only 3% of those arriving since the start of 2019 were returned to Europe, or one in every 42 arrivals (for more, read our piece).

The paper further finds:

  • The number of claims awaiting initial decision more than tripled since 2015 - possibly because word has gotten round that asylum can be a ‘back door’ into the UK, with rejected claimants increasingly unlikely to be removed.
  • About £400 million is being spent on asylum-related accommodation on an annual basis. Even officials and ministers admit that the system is under ‘enormous’ and growing strain.
  • The total number in asylum-related housing has tripled since 2012 to 60,000; this includes nearly 10,000 claimants in hotels - likely leading to extra costs for the taxpayer.
  • An estimated £130 million per year is spent on supporting failed claimants who have no right to be in the UK - despite repeal of the relevant provision of the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act by the Conservatives in 2016.
  • The number of failed asylum seekers in the UK subject to removal increased from 24,700 in 2011 to 41,600 in 2020.Enforced removals of failed asylum claimants as a share of total such removals have fallen from over a half in 2004 to less than a quarter now.
  • Use of detention to prevent absconding has plummeted even as some Home Office staff warn that more use should be made of it to expedite enforcement (ICIBI report, 2020).
  • Millions are being wasted on aborted removals of failed asylum claimants due to last minute legal claims.
  • £30 million per year is claimed each year for legal aid for asylum-related cases.

Commenting, Alp Mehmet of Migration Watch UK said:

The shambles in the Channel adds to the strains on an asylum system which is already at risk of collapse. In the midst of ballooning budgets, rising backlogs and a shameful failure to keep track of rejected claimants, the asylum system is wide open to abuse. It is a gaping hole in immigration control that is being exploited by both traffickers and those who have no credible claim to asylum.

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