House of Commons Home Affairs Committee
House of Commons Home Affairs Committee: Channel crossings, migration and asylum, first report 2022-23.

This is the summary: you can find the full report here 

Conclusions and recommendations
1. Migration, including irregular migration across the English Channel, is an issue
on which no magical single solution is possible and on which detailed, evidence driven, properly costed and fully tested policy initiatives are by far most likely to
achieve sustainable incremental change. (Paragraph 2)

Management of the asylum system
2. While we agree with the Home Secretary that the asylum system is broken, we invite her to make it clear, given the long-term and growing pressures on the system, that it was not migrants crossing the Channel who broke it. (Paragraph 14)

3. Addressing the asylum ‘work in progress’ caseload must be the Department’s highest priority within asylum operations. Doing that would unlock substantial resources, reduce current pressures on contingency and institutional accommodation and enable wider system reform including communities’ capacity to welcome—even sponsor— refugees. (Paragraph 17)

4. The Government should accept the UNHCR’s support for the challenge of rebuilding an efficient and fair asylum system in the UK, and its practical suggestions for operational improvement. The Government should work with the UNHCR to assess the feasibility of proposals including measures to improve the registration, screening and triaging of cases. The Government must urgently consider what further steps may be taken to prioritise unaccompanied children’s claims, as set out in the Immigration Rules, and to reduce case-handling times for those children. (Paragraph 18)

Channel crossings
5. The visibility of small boat crossings of the English Channel should not prevent our
remembering that migrants also use ferries, planes, trains and vehicles to enter the
United Kingdom irregularly and by clandestine means. The rapid increase in the
proportion of people making the dangerous journey across the Channel may suggest, however, that security improvements made by the French and UK authorities in northern France is displacing traffic from those routes into small boats. We agree with the Permanent Secretary that any policy that closes down small boat immigration by inadvertently creating something even more dangerous would be a pyrrhic victory and reiterate the necessity for the Government fully to develop, test and risk assess any such policy before it is announced. (Paragraph 21)

6. We recommend that the UK Government continue to prioritise close, collaborative
working with the French authorities, including provision of equipment and intelligence that may help disrupt organised criminal gangs that profit from the misery and desperation of migrants. An intelligence-led approach remains the best way to identify the activities of such gangs and prevent their continuing exploitation of vulnerable people. (Paragraph 31)

7. The greatest deterrent to perilous crossings of the channel on unseaworthy vessels with actively dangerous ‘life-jackets’ would be to prevent such crossings ever leaving France. 

Alternatively the French authorities with or without British assistance could intercept the boats once in French territorial waters and return them to French land whence they started their journey, as international maritime lawyers advised us they were legally entitled to do. This would soon have the deterrent effect at preventing people risking a dangerous and expensive round trip to and from French beaches but the French Government refuses to countenance such a policy. We believe that discussions with the French as to what it would take for them to change this policy are essential.

Creation of a safe and legal route for those who might successfully seek asylum in the UK having passed through the European continent could provide such a disincentive and deterrent, though that would not necessarily apply to those seeking to come to the UK with a very weak case for being accepted as an asylum seeker here. (Paragraph 32)

8. We therefore recommend that the Government enter into discussion with the French Government on providing UK asylum assessment facilities within France, enabling juxtaposed consideration of claims in the same way that juxtaposed checks of passports and customs are carried out for Eurostar and Eurotunnel crossings or for ferries to and from Dover, and on the basis that France remains responsible for those people whose UK asylum claims are not successful. We acknowledge that this is a contentious issue between the UK and French Governments and would need firm assurances that any migrants whose applications were rejected by UK authorities must be detained and removed so that they would not simply return to the French coast, but this could be run as a pilot initially. (Paragraph 33)

9. The National Crime Agency should continue to pursue national and international
operations to identify and prosecute smugglers and participate in global initiatives
to crack down on the use of social media and international communications by
smugglers. (Paragraph 38)

10. The Home Office should urgently review lessons learned from the response to migrant crossings since January 2018. The review should focus on intelligence collection, risk assessment and how information is reported to Ministers and used to inform policy.

The Home Office should report in its formal response to this Report on how this review will be taken forward, its staffing and objectives. The review’s outcomes should be reported to us within 10 weeks of publication of its formal response to this Report. (Paragraph 40)

11. We welcome the joint action plan between the National Crime Agency and major social media companies to hinder organised immigration crime and urge the Government to persuade more social media providers to participate in action aimed at preventing trafficking and saving lives, though given the previous experience of the Committee in securing assurances from social media companies, the Government will have to keep on their case relentlessly. This consideration will have to be dealt with in the Online Harms Bill currently before Parliament. (Paragraph 44)

New measures to combat crossings
12. Further clarity is required on precisely what difference the assumption of operational responsibility for migrant crossings in the Channel by the Royal Navy (rather than Border Force) is intended to achieve and what measure of success will be applied when these arrangements are reviewed in January. We invite the Home Office to provide that clarity in its response to this Report. (Paragraph 47)

13. There is a worrying trend in Home Office policy announcements being made before detailed policy has been worked through, tested and even agreed between Government Departments, as exemplified by early announcement both of military control of channel operations and the Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda.

We recommend that the Home Office seek to delay announcing new policy initiatives
on channel crossings until sufficient detailed planning has been done to substantiate
the chances of their success against the underlying strategic goals. (Paragraph 48)

14. We note that the Government no longer intends to pursue a policy of pushing boats back to European countries. We urge the UK Government to continue instead to press the case for enhanced information-sharing and close co-operation with European governments and agencies. In particular, the Government should seek to investigate the potential for, and likely effectiveness of, joint maritime patrols as a means of dealing safely with migrants in the Channel. (Paragraph 55)

15. Given widely expressed concerns about the practicality and safety of a pushback
policy, we think it right that the policy has been dropped: it is hard to see how the
benefit of such a manoeuvre as an active deterrent could outweigh its potential costs
in the form of risk to migrants’ and officials’ lives and damage to the UK’s reputation.
(Paragraph 56)

16. The Government’s stated purpose of the Migration and Economic Development
Programme with Rwanda is to deter people from seeking to arrive in the UK by
irregular means. It is not clear as yet whether it will have that effect. We invite the
Government to set out its evidence base for assuming such an effect in its response to this Report. (Paragraph 65)

17. The Home Office must provide more detailed costings for its Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda, including estimates of the likely cost within the current financial year of relocations and probable costs of relocations during the full five years of the programme. (Paragraph 66)

18. The Home Office must also set out what steps it is taking to ensure that the mental and physical wellbeing of those who are relocated to Rwanda is secured for the long term.

The agreement with Rwanda implies that the UK will have no responsibility for people relocated once they have arrived in their new accommodation, who will have no right of return to the UK. The UNHCR is strongly of the view that such responsibility does remain with the UK Government even once it has relocated people elsewhere. Given the lessons of the Australian experience, this carries a significant reputational risk for the UK, and we seek assurances that the Government will actively monitor the accommodation, health and educational outcomes achieved for those who are relocated after seeking refuge or a future in this country and details of how that monitoring will be conducted and what actions will be taken in the event of any failure to deliver safe and secure new lives. (Paragraph 67)

19. Following the Minister’s admission that from January to November 2021 the UK
returned only five people who had arrived on small boats, it is clear that the UK’s
arrangements for the return of failed or inadmissible asylum seekers to Europe have
collapsed. We consider that there is no prospect of the promised bilateral deals with
former EU partners. The Government must pursue an agreement with the EU on
responsibility for asylum seekers who arrive in the UK from another EU country as the most effective and transparent way to deal with returns for irregular migration across the Channel. (Paragraph 76)

Migrants and the United Kingdom
20. It is surprising that the Home Office does not routinely collect information on why asylum seekers and other migrants seek to journey to the UK. We recommend that it begin to do so, to form a sound evidence basis for future policy-making. (Paragraph 94)

21. We welcome the Government’s investment in migrant support centres across France, which may help to assure migrants that there are safe and accessible asylum options for them in mainland Europe. We urge the Government to consult authorities and organisations working with the migrants to understand what support is most needed to achieve this objective and how, and by whom, information about options in Europe might best be communicated. (Paragraph 96)

22. The Government should work with the French authorities to consider the feasibility of a programme of investment in trained child protection workers to work with vulnerable child migrants along the French coast. In line with our own previous
recommendation from 2018, the Government should ensure that provision is made
for an unaccompanied minor who has a family member in the United Kingdom, who
is a refugee or has been granted humanitarian protection, to have at least the same
reunion rights with family members in the United Kingdom as they had before the UK left the EU. (Paragraph 99)

Reception in the UK
23. The Government has a statutory safeguarding responsibility for the welfare of children in the asylum system: these concerns must be addressed as a priority, and there remains clear discrepancies in procedures about whether the Home Office or local authority takes lead responsibility for the safeguarding of minors and how the two bodies work complementarily. In particular, we request that the Government include in its response to this report a summary of changes made to Home Office safeguarding processes in consequence of the review referred to by Abi Tierney, in evidence on 2 December 2020. (Paragraph 113)

24. The Government should also commission an independent end-to-end review of the asylum system as it is applied to, and experienced by, children. The report of this
review should be published no later than 15 December 2022. (Paragraph 114)

25. The disappearance of separated children from hotels, and a continuing absence of clarity over who is responsible for safeguarding in hotels, is extremely concerning. The Government must immediately and clearly confirm where responsibility lies for
every aspect of safeguarding children housed in this accommodation. It must also
explain what steps it has taken to understand the causes of children’s disappearances from hotel or similar accommodation, and the measures put in place to address them. (Paragraph 119)

26. Although the Home Secretary stated that changes to the National Transfer Scheme would ensure hotel accommodation for children “will only need to be in place for the shortest period possible” it has now been in operation for more than nine months. This is not acceptable. (Paragraph 120)

27. We have recommended that the Government commission an independent review of children’s experiences of the asylum system. This review should include examination of the support needs for young asylum seekers, including failed asylum seekers, and refugees up to the age of 25 and should assess the cost of providing those services. We encourage the Government also to consider how independent Youth Welfare Officers might be employed to provide immediate social, emotional and practical support to young asylum-seekers and refugees adapting to life in the UK. (Paragraph 126)

28. Every young asylum seeker should be provided with a trusted and independent adult who is qualified to support their interactions with immigration and asylum processes and who can where appropriate help them to settle in the UK. We welcome the provisions already available in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and pilot arrangements in parts of England and Wales, but greater consistency is needed. The Government should ensure independent legal guardianship is available to all separated children and young people throughout the UK. (Paragraph 127)

29. The Government must ensure that there is enough physical and staff capacity to
conduct necessary searches, fingerprinting, identity and initial vulnerability checks
consistently on all migrants arriving at Dover before they are transferred to Yarl’s
Wood or other Home Office facilities. (Paragraph 137)

30. Fulfilment of this recommendation is likely to require investment in internet
connectivity and/or other equipment and resources. Such investment would deliver
greater effectiveness in managing safeguarding obligations and support improved
communications between staff processing migrants in different units and reduce
casework delays later in the decision-making process. (Paragraph 138)

31. We invite the Government to report the outcomes of the review undertaken in response to the ICIBI’s recommendation on screening and induction processes, and its progress with actions arising from that review, in its response to this report. The Government should also learn the lessons of the specific screening failures highlighted by HMIP and the Independent Monitoring Boards in their recent reports and inform us of actions arising from these findings. (Paragraph 140)

32. The Government must also explain what measures have been put in place to improve communication between Border Force and short-term holding facilities about their capacity to receive migrants. The Home Office should agree minimum notice periods for different numbers of arrivals at holding centres. (Paragraph 141)

33. We recognise that this crisis has been building over many years. But this Government’s response, characterised first by inattention and then by poor decision-making, has exacerbated these problems and undermined public confidence in the asylum system and in the management of the border. The issue has not been helped by the perceived reluctance of the French Government to find a solution and work much more cooperatively with UK authorities in intercepting migrants before they reach British territorial waters. (Paragraph 145)

34. We urge the Government to show leadership through redoubling efforts to engage and co-operate with international partners. The provision of safe and legal routes to the UK should be a key part of the Government’s strategy to counter the criminal trade, and this has not yet received the attention it deserves. The Government risks undermining its own ambitions and the UK’s international standing if it cannot demonstrate that proposed policies such as pushbacks, now abandoned, and offshore processing, such as the Rwanda partnership now being legally challenged, are compatible with international law and conventions. (Paragraph 147)