“The majority of them are people that are not claiming asylum or fleeing persecution.”

Priti Patel, House of Commons

February 1, 2022

Facts

Conservative MP Tim Loughton pointed out that the number of migrants reaching the UK on small boats had tripled in 2021 to 28,000, and asked what alternative routes were available to them.

Ms Patel responded: “We have people coming from Syria and Afghanistan, we do have the work of the Afghanistan resettlement scheme - that is a safe and legal route that has been stood up,”

“For economic migrants they don’t need safe and legal routes because they should be claiming asylum in many of the other countries they’re travelling through.” 

She added: “The majority of them are people that are not claiming asylum or fleeing persecution.”

But the Home Office’s most recent asylum statistics, released in November, said “almost all” people who arrive on small boats claim asylum.  Priti Patel was repeating a version of the same false claim she had already made on 27 October 2021 when giving Evidence to House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee. Priti Patel told the House of Lords that ”all the data and evidence has shown this—that in the last 12 months alone 70% of the individuals who have come to our country illegally via small boats are single men, who are effectively economic migrants. They are not genuine asylum seekers. They are able to pay the smugglers and get in contact with the gangs, whether they are in northern France or Germany. These are the ones who are elbowing out the women and children, who are at risk and fleeing persecution"

A report by the Refugee Council challenged this conclusion: The findings of this report show that people who cross the Channel and enter into the asylum system are likely to be recognised as being in need of protection. Examination of the nationalities of people who arrive via small boats shows that over 91% of people come from just 10 countries of origin. Of these, eight of the countries have a higher grant rate (i.e. are granted asylum) than the overall grant rate for all nationalities, a clear indicator that the majority of people crossing the Channel are likely to be recognised as being in need of protection at initial decision making stage. Furthermore, nine of the countries in the top 10 have a higher success rate at appeal than the overall success rate, a clear indicator that the majority of people crossing the Channel who lodge an appeal after having their case refused by the Home Office, are likely to have the refusal overturned by the court.

We approached Priti Patel’s office and the Home Office to give her a chance to comment, but received no response. 

Verdict

Home Secretary Priti Patel was misleading Parliament. According to the Ministerial Code,  “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.  Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.”

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