More than 18,000 refugees have crossed Channel in small boats this year – MoD


Show caption People being brought in to Ramsgate, Kent, onboard Border Force vessels after a number of small boat incidents in the Channel. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Immigration and asylum More than 18,000 refugees have crossed Channel in small boats this year – MoD Figure passed as charities criticise Mail on Sunday’s claims about ‘economic migrants’ from Albania Diane Taylor Sun 7 Aug 2022 15.12 BST Share on Facebook

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The number of refugees crossing the Channel this year has passed 18,000 after 337 crossed in small boats on Saturday, according to Ministry of Defence figures.

The new data comes after a newspaper report claimed that many of those who had crossed the Channel in the past six weeks were economic migrants from Albania, not refugees.

The claims have been criticised by charities supporting asylum seekers and victims of trafficking.

According to the Mail on Sunday, which published the claim based on a leaked military intelligence report, analysts based at an operations centre in Portsmouth used satellites and a fleet of drones to track 70 boats that made the crossing over a six-week period in June and July and mapped the beaches from where they were launched.

According to the military intelligence report, defence officials believe nine competing organised crime groups are targeting Britain.

The groups collectively smuggled 2,862 migrants across the Channel between 1 June and 12 July, with many obtaining their inflatable boats from manufacturers in China.

A total of 1,075 of those who made the crossing were from Albania, a country the reports say is not a war zone.

However, charities have challenged the claim that Albania is a safe country even though it is not at war, and dispute the claim that those who cross the Channel from Albania are economic migrants.

The charity Love146, which works with young victims of trafficking, tweeted that Albanian young people made up one of the largest groups of children trafficked to the UK every year. The charity added that the country not being at war did not mean it was a safe place to be returned to.

Lauren Starkey, a social worker with the charity, tweeted: “Violence, the threat of coercion, deception, debt bondage. All techniques used to traffic young Albanians to the UK. The country may not be at war but it is not peaceful or safe for survivors of that abuse.”

A report published on Wednesday by UNHCR and British Red Cross warned of critical gaps in the UK asylum system, which mean that people seeking safety in the UK, including those fleeing modern slavery, may be at risk of potential exploitation after reaching the UK.

Home Office freedom of information data obtained by the Scottish Refugee Council earlier this year revealed that in the year ending September 2019, Albanians were the fourth-largest nationality group to cross the Channel in small boats after Iranians, Iraqis and Eritreans.

Clare Moseley, the founder of the charity Care4Calais, questioned the Mail on Sunday report and said that government data had shown the majority of those crossing the Channel in small boats were refugees.

She said: “Recent figures show a 55% acceptance rate for Albanian refugees, so the claim they are all economic migrants may be presumptive.”

She called on the government to adopt a new approach as current policies had not broken the business model of the smugglers as the home secretary, Priti Patel, promised they would and instead have led to record-breaking numbers crossing the Channel.

“If we issue visas for safe passage on the basis of screening for a viable asylum claim, to other refugees in a similar way to the Ukrainians this would break the model of the people smugglers and save lives.”

The Home Office has been approached for comment.