Posted on December 4, 2023

Under 2% Of People Arriving in UK by Small Boats Removed Since 2018

Anna Gross, Financial Times, November 29, 2023

Under 2 per cent of people who have entered the UK by small boat since 2018 have been removed to another country, underscoring Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s failure to deliver on his promise to tackle a large backlog in asylum claims.

More than 96,000 migrants arrived in Britain after crossing the Channel between January 2018 and June 2023. A total of 1,319, or 1.4 per cent, of these individuals were removed from the UK in that period, according to Home Office figures obtained by the Financial Times through a freedom of information request.

The findings point to one of the difficulties confronting the government as it faces pressure ahead of a probable election year over the large numbers of asylum seekers waiting for their claims to be processed. The backlog of asylum cases awaiting a decision jumped to 123,000 in October.

More than 75 per cent of asylum applications in the UK are successful, with most arrivals having a legitimate right to claim protection, according to the Refugee Council.


The overall number of “enforced returns” from the UK, including of people in detention or found to have committed a crime, has been steadily declining during the past decade, from about 15,000 in 2013, to 4,000 in 2022.

Ministers had planned to reduce irregular migration through a deal with Rwanda to send claimants to the African country for processing but the policy was ruled unlawful by the UK Supreme Court. The government is now scrambling to pull together a new agreement with Rwanda.

The UK this month announced it had added India and Georgia to its list of “safe countries”, which enables it to deny an asylum claim and send back to those countries individuals who arrive via irregular routes.

The Home Office said that its Illegal Migration Act would allow it to go further, by ensuring that “people arriving in the UK illegally are detained and promptly removed to their country of origin or a safe third country”.