Channel migrants are being bussed 500 miles to Scotland for processing after arriving on beaches in Kent as the system struggles under a record number of crossings.
Dozens have taken the eight-hour journey to Dungavel immigration detention centre in Strathaven, South Lanarkshire in the last few weeks, according to a pressure group.
Until now, migrants have been processed in Home Office short-term holding facilities an hour or two from Dover, but a record 4,000 arrivals this month have forced officials to use facilities further away.
Until now, migrants have been processed in Home Office short-term holding facilities an hour or two from Dover, but a record 4,000 arrivals this month have forced officials to use facilities further away. Pictured: Home Secretary Priti Patel
Dozens have taken the eight-hour journey to Dungavel immigration detention centre in Strathaven, South Lanarkshire (pictured) in the last few weeks, according to a pressure group
What happens when someone arrives in the UK after crossing the Channel?
By Rory Tingle
The vast majority of people crossing the Channel in small boats claim asylum, according to the Refugee Council. At this point the process for what happens varies depending on whether they are an adult, unaccompanied minor or a family unit.
1 – Immediately transferred to a short-term holding facility dotted around the country, generally in southern England. Fingerprints are taken and they have a screening interview where they provide their name, date of birth and nationality. This registers them into the asylum system.
2 – One or two days later the asylum seekers would usually be sent to a hostel run by the Home Office, but in the last few years these have become full so officials are using hotels.
3 – Two to three weeks later they are dispersed to a town or city anywhere in the UK into ‘housing in the community’ – although these time scales have stretched recent years. In addition, dispersal accommodation has often been full so the Home Office has relied on rented accomodation from three private providers. The asylum seekers receive housing and £39.63 a week as a cash allowance.
4 – The asylum seekers are issued with a form called a preliminary information questionnaire (PIC) where they are asked why they have a fear of persecution. At some point they are invited to the Home Office for substantive interview where they will be asked questions based on information from their screening interview and PIC form.
4 – If the initial decision is a refusal, the applicant can appeal to an independent tribunal. Their accommodation and support would continue.
5 – If they get an initial refusal and they don’t appeal or their appeal is refused they become what’s known in official jargon as ‘appeal rights exhausted’. The Home Office will send them a letter saying they will be evicted and the weekly support will stop.
6 – They have the option of signing up to the Voluntary Return Scheme, under which the Home Office will pay for their flights. If they don’t sign up they are liable to being picked up and detained by immigration officers and perhaps forcibly removed. But they are not enough detention spaces for people in that situation so they often become homeless and destitute, the Refugee Council said.
Children (under 18) are sent to a short term holding facility for a much shorter amount of time and then transferred into the care of a local authority. They are allocated a social worker and accomodation.
The Home Office cannot remove minors if they have been separated from their parents. However, if their asylum claim is unsuccessful they could be given a form of leave to remain until they are 17 and a half.
The only slight difference is that if a family become an ‘appeal rights exhausted’ case the Home Office wouldn’t evict them from the accommodation or stop their financial support.
Dungavel is an immigration removal centre, which is usually used to hold failed asylum seekers prior to deportation. There are eight others in the UK, seven in England and one in Northern Ireland.
Kate Alexander, director of Scottish Detainee Visitors, told The Guardian: ‘When I visited Dungavel on 14 October, I learnt that around 50 people who had crossed the Channel in small boats had been brought there for ”processing”.
‘Staff said this was the second time it had happened in a month, but not before that.’
The Home Office said: ‘The British public have had enough of seeing people die in the Channel while ruthless criminal gangs profit from their misery and our new plan for immigration will fix the broken system which encourages migrants to make this lethal journey.
‘People should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach – rather than making dangerous journeys to the UK.
‘That is why we will have rules in place to make asylum claims inadmissible where people have travelled through or have a connection to safe countries.’
It came as a minister warned French officials were not enforcing their land border ‘well enough’ to prevent people crossing the Channel.
French officials are not enforcing their land border ‘well enough’ to prevent migrants from crossing the Channel, a minister has argued.
It comes after more than 24,700 people have arrived in the UK so far this year after making the Channel crossing in small boats – almost three times the number there were in 2020.
Business minister Paul Scully, defending Home Secretary Priti Patel’s performance in the face of the number of arrivals, told Sky News: ‘(It is) because we’ve made an agreement with France which, unfortunately, is not being affected well enough at the moment, and that’s what we need to go back and do.’
Mr Scully continued: ‘One of the things we’ve got to do is stop the pull factors, we’ve got to stop the reason why people are travelling through safe countries, through France, to come to the UK.
‘Actually, we’ve got to make sure they are treated well in France, that in the first place, that they are claiming asylum – that’s what the rules are, that’s what the laws are.’
He added: ‘While they (migrants) can see there is a pathway across the Channel because the border isn’t being enforced well enough on the land side, on the French side, and while we’re not allowed to treat illegal immigrants differently from legal immigrants, then those pull factors remain – that’s what we’re tackling and trying to tackle at full speed.’
Today, former director general for the UK Border Force Tony Smith said Channel crossing are “proving a very, very difficult nut to crack” but the Home Office and Immigration enforcement are “doing what they can within the restraints of current legislation”.
Yesterday, a newborn baby clutching its mother’s chest was among 200 migrants who came ashore along the Kent coast.
Video footage showed the aftermath of three boats landing on the shoreline near Dungeness, with around 65 exhausted people crammed onto each one.
Witnesses described coaches filled mostly with men being led away from the shingle beach by Border Force officials.
Paul Fenney, 40, from Folkestone, Kent, was enjoying a family walk when he saw the latest landings.
Mr Fenney said: ‘I saw three ambulances, three coaches and about 40 police and RNLI boats.
‘There was one coach already full and on the back it said it was an 87-seater and the coach in front had about ten people on it, and when we walked to the sea there were about 90 there.
The new arrivals bring the total number to have made it to the UK this month to 4,019, exceeding the previous record of 3,879 in September. This year’s total is now a record-breaking 23,761
Migrants huddle together on the beach at Dungeness yesterday after three crammed boats arrived on the shoreline
Migrants could be ‘housed in Army barracks rather than hotels’ under new proposal
A task force will reportedly consider strategies including housing asylum seekers in Army barracks rather than hotels as the Government faces criticism over the migrant crisis.
Boris Johnson has drafted in Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay to oversee the issue of the rising number of migrants arriving on Britain’s shores, The Sunday Times reported
The initiative will consider the accommodation idea, the possibility of cutting benefits, if return agreements can be strengthened as well as ‘offshoring’ to third countries while claims are processed, the paper said.
Labour have accused Home Secretary Priti Patel of ‘comprehensively failing’ to stem the flow.
‘There were three boats and they were obviously overloaded. There was a newborn baby that was rushed away with female paramedics and its mother.
‘We saw ten little lads, they looked like they were on their own. They were walking in a group with Border Force people.
‘The majority were men – I only saw that one lady with the very small baby clutched to her chest.’
More than 24,700 migrants have arrived in the UK so far this year.
The news comes amid reports that some asylum seekers are getting tattoos of Jesus and cruxifixes as evidence they have converted to Christianity and cannot be returned to the Middle East on religious grounds.
Immigration appeal judgments over the last five years show that over 20 asylum claimants have tattoos connected to Christianity, atheism and homosexuality, the Sunday Telegraph reports.
In each of these cases, the tattoos were used to argue the risk individuals face if returned to their Muslim home countries, many of which deem leaving the Islamic faith and being gay as criminal offences.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing increasing pressure from his own party to adopt a tougher stance on migrants crossing the channel, as a poll showed 77 per cent of Tory voters felt the Government’s approach was ‘too soft’.
Senior party figures warned Mr Johnson that a shift to the political centre would ‘open up a gap’ on the PM’s right flank, leaving space for another party which could cost the Tories a majority at a future election.
Just one of the three boats – each estimated to have been crammed with about 65 people – which landed in Kent yesterday.