Most migrants crossing the English Channel are fleeing persecution - Refugee Council

(Photo: Reuters)

Most of the migrants entering the UK illegally in small boats across the English Channel are fleeing persecution, according to a new study from the Refugee Council.

The report, An Analysis of Channel Crossings & Asylum Outcomes, found that from January 2020 to May 2021, the vast majority of people (91%) came from 10 countries "where human rights abuses and persecution are common".

These include Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Eritrea and Yemen.

The report was based on Freedom of Information data and Home Office statistics. It sets out "the likely outcome" of migrants' asylum claims, based on what is known as "the grant rate" allowing people to remain in the UK.

The study shows that for people from the top 10 countries of origin arriving by small boats, 61% of initial decisions made in the 18 months to June 2021 "would have resulted in refugee protection being granted".

"This compares to the grant rate of 52% for decisions made for all nationalities in the same period," the study found.

Syrians were the most likely to be approved, with a grant rate of 88%, followed by Eritreans (84%), Sudanese and Yemenese (70%), and Iranians (67%). Afghans trailed with a grant rate of 56%.

Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said: "The reality is that people who come to the UK by taking terrifying journeys in small boats across the Channel do so because they are desperately seeking safety having fled persecution, terror and oppression.

"Their lives have been turned upside down through no fault of their own and they are exploited by callous people smugglers.

"This government should show compassion by welcoming those who need refugee protection rather than seeking to cruelly push them back across the Channel or punish them with imprisonment.

"At the same time there needs to be an ambitious expansion of safe routes so people don't have to take dangerous journeys to reach safety."