Fears asylum seekers abusing Common Travel Area as only a third come by Channel boats | UK | News

The Home Office signage, London

The Common Travel Area is being used by asylum seekers (Image: Getty)

CAMPAIGNERS have called for transparency from the Government on how asylum seekers are entering the country after it emerged that only a third had crossed the Channel in small boats in the last year.

There are fears the common travel area (with Ireland) has become a major new route for illegal immigration, after the Home Office refused to release details of how many asylum seekers have taken this route.

New figures released by the Home Office showed that in the year to March 2024, only 34 per cent of asylum claims were made by migrants who made the perilous crossing of the Channel.

A Home Office report said: “The majority of small boat arrivals claim asylum, but small boat arrivals accounted for just 34 per cent of the total number of people claiming asylum in the UK in the year ending March 2024.

“Asylum seekers use a variety of routes to travel to the UK, including arrival on a legal visa route (i.e. with valid leave to enter),

arrival on regular routes, but using fraudulent documents, arrival via clandestine routes, such as small boats, lorries or shipping containers, and arrival through the common travel area without valid permission to enter.”

The report said that many asylum seekers had been in the UK for some time, before applying for asylum, amid claims it was not safe for them to return once a legal visa had expired.

It added: “Internally matched data relating to visas and asylum claims shows that around 20 per cent of people claiming asylum in 2023 had held another form of leave within seven days of lodging an asylum application.”

This means that close to 50 per cent of asylum seekers must have entered the country in lkorries or shipping containers, using fraudulent documents ort through the common travel area.

But, when asked to provide a breakdown of percentages for each, a Home Office spokeswoman said: “We do not publish figures relating to the other methods of entry.

“Official statistics published by the Home Office are kept under review in line with the code of practice for statistics, taking into account a number of factors including user needs, as well as quality and availability of data.”

Alp Mehmet, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, called on the Home Office to publish the figures for the sake of transparency amid fears the common travel area could be an unchecked loophole.

He said: “This is an all too frequent occurrence that does a disservice to the public and stymies democracy. The obduracy and stonewalling of the Home Office when it comes to releasing data that we have a right to know is frustrating. Perhaps we should expect it from a once great department of state that’s become dysfunctional, inefficient and ineffective.

Migrants Brought To Shore From English Channel

Only a third of asylum seekers in the UK are coming across the Channel on boats (Image: Getty)

“The common travel area is an obvious gap that has been found by both traffickers and migrants. We used to work closely with the Irish even before we joined the EU. Since Brexit, and the Windsor agreement it has clearly got worse. Unless it’s plugged it will become worse still. Perhaps that’s why the HO is reluctant to reveal the data.”

A total of 68,564 people were granted refugee status or other leave following an asylum application in the year ending March 2024, the highest number granted since records began in 1984.

At the end of March 2024 there were 104,517 individuals in receipt of asylum support, of which 27 per cent (28,488) were in hotel accommodation, down 38 per cent from the 45,768 at the end of December.

Brexit may have had an impact on the dispersal of asylum claims across the EU.

In 2023, asylum applications in the EU increased by 18 per cent to 1.17 million people, while in the UK they fell by 16 per cent to 84,425 – just seven per cent of all applications in the UK and EU.

Migrants Try New Crossing From France To The UK

Some migrants still try to get into the UK in lorries (Image: Getty)

EU Top 5 Most Asylum Applications in Europe 2023

*Germany 351,470
*France 166,890
*Spain 162,410
*Italy 135,865
*UK 84,425


The number of Vietnamese migrants entering the UK is rising (Image: Home Office)

Meanwhile, the number of Albanians crossing the Channel in small boats has plummeted by 80 per cent, new figures show.

In the year ending March 2023, there were 14,347 Albanian applications, after an influx of arrivals in summer 2022.

This fell to 2,836 in the year to March 2024 after cooperation between the two countries, putting them outside the top ten.

The Home Office report said: “Several other common nationalities also saw a decrease in claims in the latest year, including Afghanistan (down 22 per cent to 7,669), Iran (down 29 per cent to 5,769), and Bangladesh (down 14 per cent to 3,384).

“However, other nationalities showed an increase, including Pakistan (up 72 per cent to 4,480) and Turkey (up 78 per cent to 3,730). Applications from Vietnamese nationals tripled, from 1,046 in the year ending March 2023 to 3,219 in the year ending March 2024.

Top Five Asylum Claims by Nationality in Year to March 2024

1. Afghanistan 7,669
2. Iran 5,769
3. Pakistan 4,480
4. Eritrea 3,950
5. India 3,902

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