Channel migrants make up nearly half of asylum claims, up from six per cent in just a year, official figures have revealed.

Amid growing concern at the record surge in migrants crossing the Channel, Home Office data shows that during the spring and summer they comprised between 35 per cent and 44 per cent of all in-country applications for asylum.

It represents a six-fold increase on the previous year’s figures of between four and six per cent, according to the research paper by the House of Commons Library.

The data, for 2020, shows applications from other routes including  planes, trains and ferries declined during the pandemic due to tighter border controls, but that fall was “partly offset” by the surge in migrants, rising from 1,800 in 2019 to 8,400 last year.

This year, the numbers are already more than double than last year’s at the same point, with more than 8,800 having reached UK shores so far and there are projections that they could pass 20,000 for the full year. The researchers revealed 98 per cent of the migrants arriving by boat seek asylum.

The Home Office has claimed 70 per cent are on average found to be inadmissible, largely on the basis that they should have claimed asylum in the first “safe” European country where they arrived.

However, the UK’s failure yet to agree a post-Brexit deal with the EU for European countries to take back such failed asylum seekers has prevented any being returned this year.

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, is proposing new laws reform the “broken” asylum system by barring illegal migrants from claiming residency and opening up legal routes for refugees from camps abroad.

However, critics are sceptical that will work without return agreements in place with the EU and other nations.  Alp Mehmet, chairman, Migration Watch UK, said: “Asylum claims from those who have crossed the Channel illegally to reach the UK can no longer be dismissed as small numbers.

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“They are adding significantly to the already wholesale abuse of the asylum system. Moreover, many of those coming this way have failed, some repeatedly, with claims in (safe) countries across Europe. They are not directly fleeing persecution.

“While tackling the abuse has become an urgent necessity, the new legislation is unlikely to make much difference. The flow of dinghies will not stop until those they carry are swiftly returned to the safe countries whence they come.”

Ms Patel last week handed the French £54 million to pay for a doubling to 200 in the number of police officers trying to stop migrants leaving the northern French coast and for increased surveillance technology.

Migrants arriving in Kent, last summer: 

On Sunday, she defended her policies, saying: “The British public should be in no doubt of our unwavering determination to stop these dangerous crossings from safe EU countries and take down the evil criminal gangs behind them.”

She said the French had already prevented 7,500 migrants entering the UK, treble the number for the same period in 2020, while there had been more than 65 prosecutions of smugglers in the past 18 months, leading to total jail time of more than 53 years being imposed.

“This week, we also saw the landmark Nationality and Borders Bill proceed through Parliament, which will reform the system to make people think again before attempting to enter this country illegally and break the business model of people smugglers,” she added.

French plan to limit fuel sales

Meanwhile, the French authorities are restricting the amount of fuel people can buy in an attempt to stop migrants crossing the Channel.

A 10 litre cap per customer on petrol and diesel in takeaway cannisters will be introduced in six districts across Northern France because of the “growing presence” of migrants on the coast.

People who break the ban, which will be in place for two months, could be fined 135 euros (£115), rising to 3,700 euros for repeat offenders.

 

French cannot deploy drones to search for migrants because of privacy laws

The French cannot deploy its squadron of drones to catch migrants before they cross the Channel for Britain because of privacy laws, it emerged this weekend.

The French police’s efforts to search for migrants on the north France coast before they leave for the UK is being hampered by a legal judgement that their use potentially breaches privacy.

They have been caught in the backwash of a ruling by France’s official privacy watchdog, known as CNIL, that found the French Government had been using drone cameras to enforce coronavirus restrictions and for other law enforcement purposes "outside of any legal framework”. 

Privacy activists feared that the drone monitoring could serve as a trial run for more-expansive surveillance programs. They mounted a legal action and secured a ruling by France’s highest court in May to suspend the practices in Paris.

However, privacy groups said French authorities carried on despite the ruling, continuing to deploy drones at protests, leading to CNIL to intervene and ban their use nationally.

An extra £54 million

The white cliffs of Dover, a focus for the thousands of migrants trying to make it to Britain by boat. Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, is proposing new laws reform the 'broken' asylum system by barring illegal migrants from claiming residency and opening up legal routes for refugees from camps abroad

Credit: ANDY RAIN/Shutterstock

The move comes as Priti Patel announced last week an extra £54 million for the French which included increasing the use of surveillance technology including drones.

The French Government and police are working to resolve the dispute amid concerns that it comes as record numbers are making crossings during the summer.

It is the latest problem to undermine drone searches. The French have consistently spurned British drone surveillance technology that could have a dramatic impact on spotting migrants and smugglers. It has been used in the UK to successfully identify and prosecute traffickers.

One such piece of kit is the Tekever AR5 fixed wing drone which can cruise at 60mph at heights of hundreds of metres with cameras and radar, and is understood to have played a key role in helping track and arrest a Channel migrant trafficking gang.

It has been deployed by the coastguard alongside the Ministry of Defence’s Watchkeeper drone, which can reach 16,000ft with a range of 100 miles and was used by the Army in Afghanistan. 

But the French have been reluctant to deploy them in their airspace despite the size of the area they have to patrol.