Most of 2021 Channel migrants’ asylum claims still outstanding, MPs told

The Home Office has only processed 4% of asylum claims made by migrants who crossed the Channel last year, MPs heard.

Some 96% of applications submitted by migrants making the journey in 2021 are still outstanding, the Commons Home Affairs Committee was told by the Government department’s officials on Wednesday.

Of the 4% completed, 85% were granted refugee status or another protection status.

Dan Hobbs, the Home Office’s director of asylum, protection and enforcement, said there is a “challenge in processing asylum claims in a timely way at present” and confirmed only a “small proportion” of last year’s arrivals had been granted asylum.

During the session, officials also admitted that the interception rate made by French police of migrants attempting the crossing had fallen.

Last year the rate was about 50% and this year it has dropped to 42.5%, clandestine Channel threat commander Dan O’Mahoney said.

He accepted this was a lower percentage but stressed it was a “much, much bigger number”, telling how French authorities had stopped 28,000 migrants crossing the Channel and intercepted and destroyed 1,072 boats so far this year.

“I should put on record my thanks to the French … this is around double what they managed to achieve last year, so that is really, really significant,” Mr O’Mahoney said.

But he added: “It is correct to say that migrants can attempt to cross on more than one occasion and therefore those 28,000 migrants may not be individual, different migrants, so it’s 28,000 attempts.”

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

In France migrants are not detained and processed after being caught attempting to cross the Channel. Mr O’Mahoney said French laws make it “difficult for French officers to take any action in that way”.

He told the committee French beach patrols in the north of the country were only “one brick in the wall” of the efforts to curb Channel crossings.

Work by the UK and French authorities have led to 55 serious organised crime gangs behind such crossings being “dismantled” since a joint intelligence cell was set up in France a couple of years ago, he added.

More than 38,000 people have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel in over 900 boats in 2022 to date, compared with 28,526 last year.

In October alone, at least 5,000 have made the journey, according to provisional Government figures, but no crossings were recorded by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Monday or Tuesday.