By: Kimberly Rodrigues
The UK has recorded last year, there was a surge in the number of Indian nationals illegally crossing over into Britain through the English Channel. The latest “Irregular Migration to the UK” statistics from the UK Home Office for the year ending December 2022 reported that 683 mainly Indian men had arrived on British shores via small boats.
This marks a steady increase from 67 Indian nationals in 2021, 64 in 2020, and none in 2019 and 2018.
During a recent parliamentary session, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak referenced the Migration and Mobility Partnership (MMP), a returns agreement between the UK and India.
“We have returns agreements with India, Pakistan, Serbia, Nigeria and — crucially — now with Albania, where we are returning hundreds of people,” Sunak told the Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs).
“Our position is clear: if you arrive here illegally you will not be able to claim asylum here, you will not be able to access the modern slavery system and you will not be able to make spurious human rights claims. That is the right thing to do,” he said.
This development occurred in the same week that a new and improved agreement was reached between the UK and neighbouring France to address illegal migration via small boats. This route is commonly used by people smugglers to transport individuals from the French port of Calais to the English port of Dover.
As part of the agreement, the UK has committed to financing a new migrant detention centre at the French border and increasing the number of officers, drones, and surveillance technology to deter criminal activity and unsafe small boat journeys.
The Home Office’s data on irregular migration indicates that in 2022, there were more than 400 Indian nationals who were categorised as “inadequately documented air arrivals” into the UK.
In addition to those arriving by air, the majority of the “irregular arrivals” from India arrived via small boats, with men between the ages of 25 and 40 constituting the majority of the group.
In 2022, there were a total of 45,755 irregular arrivals, with nationals from Albania and Afghanistan making up the largest numbers, followed by Iran, Iraq, and Syria.
The list also includes nationals from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. Traffickers reportedly charge thousands of pounds to transport individuals illegally on small and often hazardous boats, with the intention of seeking asylum in the UK. And despite the dangers of such journeys and several reported deaths over the years, the number of migrants undertaking them has continued to increase significantly.
“Stop the Boats” has been prioritised by Sunak’s government, and the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has introduced the Illegal Migration Bill in Parliament. This bill proposes that anyone arriving in the UK illegally on “small boats” should either be sent back to their home country or a “safe third country.”
In addition, those who have entered the country illegally will be barred from returning or obtaining British citizenship in the future.
“You will not be allowed to stay. You will be returned home if safe, or to a safe third country like Rwanda. It’s the only way to prevent people risking their lives and paying criminals thousands of pounds to get here,” Sunak said.
(With inputs from PTI)