Patrick O’Flynn Patrick O’Flynn

At sea: can Sunak navigate the migrant crisis?

It’s not hard to see why migrants come here. For those who make it across the Channel illegally, there is only a small chance of deportation. About 72 per cent of the predominantly young males who leave the safety of France can expect to have their UK asylum claims granted. The success rate is more than twice the EU average (34 per cent).

That’s part of the reason for the extraordinary growth in numbers coming across. Three years ago, 2,000 people arrived in small boats. So far this year, it’s 40,000. It’s funny to think that when 40 migrants crossed the Channel on Christmas Day in 2018, the then home secretary Sajid Javid was forced to cut short his family holiday amid the outcry. Last Saturday alone, 1,000 people made the crossing. 

Britain’s generous asylum system has an obvious appeal. Then there is the generosity
of the state, which offers an average of £13,500 of public spending per head each year, including access to an extensive benefits system that typically does not demand a record of tax contributions, citizenship and has few qualifying hurdles besides demonstrable need. When you are from a country offering none of these things, who can blame you for trying your luck?

Migrants embark on the beach of Gravelines, northern France, 12 October 2022 (Getty Images)

Throw in the world’s second language, extensive diaspora communities, no requirement for ID cards and a large informal economy still open to cash-in-hand remuneration and it is little wonder that vast numbers of men are pitching up in northern France willing to pay traffickers for a seat in a dinghy across the Channel. Some 12,000 this year were from Albania, a safe and free country – the equivalent of 1 or 2 per cent of their adult male population. The UK acceptance rate for Albanians is 53 per cent; in France it’s 8 per cent and in Sweden and Germany it’s zero. 

Removals of foreign nationals have fallen from 46,000 per annum a decade ago to below 20,000 in 2019

At the last count, 127,000 asylum seekers
and their dependents were waiting to be processed, a number equivalent to the population of Exeter.

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