Priti Patel told MPs and peers last year that 70% of people making the crossing were “single men who are effectively economic migrants”, and the government has repeatedly referred to them as “migrants”.
However, contrary to that claim, the UN refugee agency has said, “a clear majority” of people arriving in the UK by small boats across the Channel should be considered to be refugees. The United Nations high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) told the Guardian that those travelling by small boat to the UK should be considered to be asylum seekers or refugees, and not migrants.
“Based on currently available Home Office data, UNHCR considers that a clear majority of those recently arriving to the United Kingdom by boat are likely to be refugees. Refugees and asylum seekers are not, and should not be described as, ‘migrants’,” the spokesperson said. “Access to asylum should never be contingent on mode of arrival or nationality. Equally, the only way to establish whether people are refugees is through a fair and efficient determination of their claims, for which the UK has a clear responsibility.”
A new analysis of the government’s latest data shows that 77% of the men, women and children who come across the Channel in small boats are likely to be refugees and would accordingly be allowed to remain in the UK if their claims were assessed.