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The cost of asylum and how to reduce it.

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Written by Catherine McBride

The scale and cost of illegal migration into the UK are laid bare by Catherine McBride

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Another 7 boats containing 292 illegal immigrants arrived in Britain on Friday 15th December. With an additional 55 arriving on a single boat the following day. If you find this hard to believe, look it up for yourself. The Government now has a ‘Small boats data’ webpage.

These 347 presumably men, (88% of small boat arrivals are male), will be put up in accommodation costing the taxpayer £90 a night, or £91 a night if they are housed on the Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset, as we learned last week. They will also get £47.39 a week for food and toiletries, or £9.58 per week if the accommodation provides food. That totals £677.39 a week – more than the UK average wage before tax of £663.

Even more incredibly, on the government’s website about asylum support, on the page entitled ‘What you’ll get’ (Shouldn’t that be ‘How we help’), there is a section about what happens if you have been refused asylum:

You’ll be given:

  • somewhere to live
  • £47.39 per person on a payment card for food, clothing and toiletries’

At first, I thought this must be a typo. Surely, they mean if you’ve been granted asylum. But no, the more I listen to the debate on immigration, the more I suspect this is not a typo. Whether genuine refugees or not, British taxpayers will be paying for the food and accommodation of small boat arrivals – including taxpayers earning less than the average wage and those presently struggling to pay their own bills.

No wonder the population is so angry about illegal immigrants.

A House of Commons report claims that financial support for failed asylum applicants finishes after 21 days. While according to Welcome, A guide for new refugees financial support for successful applicants finishes after 28 days. However, they will also receive a biometric Residence Permit, a National Insurance number, the right to work and information explaining how the UK benefits system works and why they should apply for benefits immediately.

But very few of the small boat arrivals ever get to this stage. Many will live at the taxpayer’s expense for years awaiting a decision on their application. In the five and a half years between 2018 and the end of June 2023, only 12,979 of the 91,918 small boat arrivals have received an initial decision and of these, only 8,399 were granted refugee status or another type of leave. Supporters of irregular immigration may claim that most arrivals are valid refugees, but up until June this year, only 9% were found to be so by the Home Office. And the percentage has dropped dramatically in recent years.

In the year ending June 2023, of the 40,386 small boat arrivals, 32,242 applied for asylum (excluding dependants) but only 176 or 0.5% were granted refugee status or other leave, 184 were refused, 28,488 were still awaiting decisions and 3,394 had technically withdrawn their application by leaving their assigned accommodation.

These are the most recent clearance figures. There were 45,081 ‘detected’ irregular arrivals in just the twelve months ending in September 2023, most arrived on small boats, but the government hasn’t published the clearance rate for the third quarter of 2023.

However, even after an asylum application has failed, without documentation or proof of identity, it will be hard or impossible for Home Office staff to deport them. This is one of the reasons that so few, a mere 1% of illegal immigrants were deported last year. What country would take them without paperwork when they have been living in the UK for months or years? Well as it turns out – only Rwanda. That is the main advantage of the Rwanda scheme. Although it is an incredibly expensive way to solve this problem. So far, the Government has paid £240 million to the Rwandans for this support and agreed to pay an additional £150 million over the next three years.

But Rwanda will only house a few hundred people. So, with over 45,000 arrivals in the last 12 months to Sep 2023, it is imperative that the UK stops the illegal arrivals in the first place.

But how could we do this? I would suggest both a carrot and a stick. First the carrot. The UK should only allow refugees and asylum claimants to apply at UK Embassies located outside the UK. The government must install Home Office staff at every UK embassy to handle asylum claims as well as other visa applications. Applications should be processed as quickly as possible, so applicants should be encouraged to bring their paperwork with them.

Then any refugees or asylum claimants granted refuge or asylum in the UK should be flown here, at the expense of the Home Office, and then given accommodation and financial support while they find work and permanent accommodation. We don’t expect refugees from Ukraine or asylum seekers from Hong Kong to arrive by rubber dingy, so why not use the same process for all refugees?

It is worth mentioning that small boat arrivals only accounted for 37% of the total number of people claiming asylum in the UK in the year ending June 2023. Presumably the other 63% either claimed in British Embassies or arrived with passports or other documentation to prove their claim.

In the year ending September 2023, almost 9,000 people arriving in small boats were from Afghanistan. If true, then they will have passed through at least seven safe countries with functioning British Embassies before they got to Calais. In another Government report, in the year ending June 2023, 154,254 of the 175,142 people offered protection in the UK, (88%), came via safe and legal routes, of these 2,570 were Afghans resettled under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy or the Afghan Citizen Resettlement Scheme, both designed to help Afghans who worked for the UK government or those who are at risk for supporting women’s rights, freedom of speech or other minority groups. In total 21,526 Afghans have been settled under these schemes.

Moving the application process offshore is of course also the stick and would have several benefits: Firstly, it sorts the immigrants. Those with genuine claims are unlikely to pay thousands of pounds and risk their lives to arrive by rubber dingy. While those who continue to attempt to arrive by small boat or in the back of a lorry, having bypassed the legal route, would obviously not be genuine asylum seekers or refugees. Therefore, the small boats could be returned to France from midchannel, towed by RNLI or Coast Guard boats directly back to Calais. This is the process adopted by Australia over a decade ago: lots of legal routes to claim asylum while preventing illegal arrivals from landing.

This would cut down on accommodation and processing costs in the UK while still helping genuine claimants. It would also clean up Calais. If there were no hope of getting into the UK, the makeshift camps of men awaiting passage would disappear.  The citizens of Calais could correctly make the case that their town has been destroyed because the UK encourages immigrants by rescuing them at sea and putting them into hotels. In France they are sleeping rough under makeshift tents – why wouldn’t they attempt to cross the channel? More importantly, preventing small boats from landing in the UK would have the added advantage of destroying the business model of the people smugglers.

Many people seem to mistakenly believe that the immigrants arriving by rubber dingy, who have been sleeping rough outside Calais, also had several thousand pounds on hand to pay their smugglers. In most cases, they don’t. Instead, they will have indentured themselves to work for the criminal gangs who run the smuggling rings. This is another reason why we should have zero tolerance of illegal arrivals.

As I mentioned above, in the year ending June 2023 just under 3,400 main applicants for asylum disappeared. The Home Office puts this down as ‘Application withdrawn’. If an asylum applicant leaves their accommodation and doesn’t respond to Home Office requests, then the Home Office assumes that they are no longer seeking sanctuary in the UK. It would appear that the missing applicants are not pursued by the Home Office, but incredibly presumed to have left the country. This seems very unlikely. Why pay thousands of pounds to cross the channel and then leave the UK? Knowing that ‘missing’ asylum seekers will not be pursued must be a major enticement to traffickers.

Missing asylum applicants may be a blessing for the Home Office’s caseload, but it is a serious matter for the rest of the population and probably the UK police forces. Some liberals might like to believe that these missing asylum seekers are working diligently in fields or factories for cash and that this is helping our economy. But while I am sure they are working – it is highly unlikely that they are employed in legal activities. These ‘missing’ asylum seekers must be found and deported before they commit whatever crimes they have agreed to in payment for their passage.

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Finally, there is often an implication in the UK press that illegal immigration is a UK issue, made worse by Brexit. However, almost all wealthy EU countries have similar problems with illegal immigrants and several are proposing similar solutions. In November, it was reported that Austria is also proposing to deport asylum seekers to countries outside the EU. Demark has passed legislation that would allow it to move asylum seekers to countries outside the EU while their cases are processed, and it is also negotiating with Rwanda. Denmark has also declared the area around Damascus to be safe, and so is revoking residence permits for Syrian refugees from the Damascus area. Meanwhile, Germany, the country that started the mass immigration into the EU in the first place, is pushing the EU to also deport asylum seekers to Rwanda or Niger.

The EU’s problems are considerably larger than the UK’s, in 2021 EU member states tried to remove 342,100 immigrants but only 24% were successfully returned to a country outside the EU. Some EU countries want the EU to remove preferential tariff rates if developing countries refuse to take back failed asylum seekers.

However, the EU’s reluctance to allow imports of higher-value processed goods and agricultural goods from developing nations, by using Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) or Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) regulations, employment opportunities in these countries and encourages more economic migrants to seek employment in the EU. If anything, more high-value trade, relocating factories to developing countries and encouraging those countries to use their own oil and gas reserves rather than insisting they follow the green agenda of wealthy developed countries would reduce economic migrants. Although war zones will still create refugees and illiberal authoritarian governments will still create asylum seekers.

Although the number of illegal migrants arriving in the UK is small compared to the UK’s legal migration and its official refugee/asylum programs, most people worry much more about undocumented arrivals. People are rightly frightened of boatloads of unidentifiable young men of fighting age arriving uninvited without passports, jobs, universities or families to go to. The only way to solve this is zero tolerance, tow the boats straight back to France to apply for asylum at the British Embassy.

Postscript: Last night the EU Council and parliament announced that they have reached a  provisional agreement to reform the EU asylum and migration system. However, the details of the new regulations have yet to be fleshed out.

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About the author

Catherine McBride