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Over 1,000 Indians crossed into UK illegally, over 5,000 applied for asylum in 2023: Data


Migrants on a beach near Calais, France after a failed attempt to cross the Channel on August 10, 2023.
| Photo Credit: PASCAL ROSSIGNOL

In 2023, more than 1,000 Indians risked their lives to reach the U.K. by crossing the English Channel from Europe in inflatable small boats, searching for jobs and seeking asylum. The number of Indians who took this dangerous journey has surged in recent years. In 2023, the number more than doubled from the previous year. The share of illegal migrants from India aged 18-29 has shot up in recent years; they formed close to 60% of the total number of illegal Indian migrants in 2023. In parallel, the number of Indians applying for asylum in the U.K. has also surged in recent years, crossing the 5,000-mark for the first time in 2023. Notably, the number of Indians crossing into the U.S. illegally has also surged recently, with close to 1 lakh people doing so in 2023.

The U.K. has been grappling with the problem of a sudden surge in the inflow of illegal migrants in recent years. There has been a notable rise in the number of asylum-seekers arriving in the U.K. by small boats from the European mainland. Through most of 2021 and 2022, daily crossings of the perilous English Channel by thousands of migrants were recorded. Although the number of these crossings decreased in 2023 compared with the previous two years, the incidence of such events remained substantially higher than what was observed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. This trend continues in 2024, with over 2,000 people crossing into the U.K. until February 27 this year.

Chart 1 | The chart shows the number of Indians who arrived in small boats between 2018 and 2023.

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In 2023, most of those who crossed into the U.K. were from Afghanistan (5,545 people), Iran (3,562), and Turkey (3,060). Indians featured ninth on the list with 1,192 crossings, similar to the number of people from Albania and Egypt. In 2022, Albania recorded 12,600 crossings, the highest that year, as its economy had turned anaemic, impacting jobs and wages.

Chart 2 | The chart shows the number of U.K. asylum applications raised by Indians over the years.

The number skyrocketed post-pandemic, with 5,253 Indians applying for asylum in the U.K. in 2023. In total, close to 84,500 people from around the world applied for asylum last year. Close to 9,300 were from Afghanistan, the highest, followed by Iran (7,397), Pakistan (5,273), and India (5,253).

Chart 3 | The chart shows the age-wise share of Indian asylum applicants in the U.K.

After the pandemic, the share of people aged 18-29 formed more than 50% in all the years. In 2023, 57% of the asylum-seekers were from this age group.

Chart 4 | The chart shows the number of asylum applications by Indians that were granted at the decision initial stage.

In 2023, over 140 Indian asylum applicants were granted either protection or leave to remain (those who do not qualify for refugee status but are given permission to stay for various other reasons). It is important to note that most Indian asylum applications were rejected or the applicants themselves withdrew after some time.

Also read:Illegal Indian migrants | Dream destination, nightmarish journey

This rising tide of asylum-seekers is now a political issue in the U.K. as the country may go to the polls later this year or in early January next year. The British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has long been pledging to “stop the boats” — a reference to the recent surge in illegal migrants crossing the English Channel. Given that the Conservative Party has been trailing the opposition Labour Party by a considerable margin in the opinion polls until now, Mr. Sunak has been pushing a Bill to send asylum-seekers in the U.K. to Rwanda, the outcome of which may have an impact on his and his party’s success in the polls.

vignesh.r@thehindu.co.in, nihalani.j@thehindu.co.in

Source: U.K. Home Office’s immigration system statistics and irregular migration statistics

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