Rwanda scheme: What the numbers say about Britain's boat migrant crisis

Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday came after influx of undocumented migrants crossing English Channel from France

A boat carrying about 50 migrants crossing the English Channel, from France to the UK. Getty Images
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Britain's disputed immigration policy was dealt a blow by the Supreme Court ruling against the legality of sending migrants to Rwanda to have their asylum claims processed.

Figures show the number of undocumented migrants crossing the English Channel to reach the UK from France is still high, but has decreased in recent months as more efforts are made to stop people smugglers.

The number of small boats arriving in the UK suggests seasonal patterns in migrant crossings, with a discernible surge during months typically associated with calmer sea conditions.

Such variations often reflect the challenges of the journey, where smoother waters in the warmer months present a window that many attempt to navigate through.

The latest data shows that about 7,500 people made the crossing in the last available quarter for analysis. That is down significantly from the record figures in late 2022, when 20,301 people made the crossing in the third quarter.

The majority were men (76 per cent), with children accounting for another 16 per cent. This mirrors the broader asylum-seeking population, where men and children make up 65 per cent and 18 per cent respectively.

The surge in asylum applications in 2022, a 52 per cent increase from the previous year, correlates with an increase in small boat arrivals.

Figures show Iran has the highest number of boat arrivals to the UK, while Albania and Iraq follow closely behind.

In 2022, there was a sharp increase in Albanian citizens crossing the Channel, which drove much of the overall increase in arrivals that year.

The UK later promised to fast track the removal of unauthorised Albanian arrivals and co-operate with the country's government.

In October, James Cleverly, at the time British foreign secretary, attended a summit in Tirana to help tackle illegal migration from the region.

Data shows that the vast majority of asylum claims from Iran and Syria are accepted, while those from Albania and India are unlikely to be successful.

Of all asylum applications submitted by Albanian citizens arriving in small boats since 2018, almost 22 per cent (2,309) had been withdrawn by March 2023, according to the UK's Migration Watch think tank.

That is much higher than the average (5 per cent) for all asylum seekers arriving in small boats.

Since 2014, Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain have faced significant numbers of migrant arrivals by sea, with Italy recording about 105,000 in 2022, and Spain and Greece receiving 30,000 and 13,000 respectively, reflecting broader European trends alongside the UK's 46,000 Channel crossings.

While in the 2015 peak there were more than a million arrivals in Greece and Italy, subsequent fluctuations have occurred, with Italy notably witnessing a sharp increase in arrivals from 2019 to 2022, paralleling the trend observed in the UK.

Updated: November 15, 2023, 10:37 AM