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No, there are not ‘record numbers’ of people seeking asylum in the UK

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Original article from Kent Live

Data published by the Home Office in June 2021 has indicated that the past 12 months have seen fewer people enter the UK and apply for asylum than in the year prior.

This runs contrary to the current popularly held belief that the UK is experiencing a refugee 'crisis', amidst a series of administrative issues in Kent.

2021 has been a politically fraught year for Kent's asylum system, becoming the second consecutive year that Kent County Council was unable to house unaccompanied refugee children, whilst the debate around the suitability of Napier Barracks continues.

Read more: 'England is hope': A day in the life of desperate refugees on the Kent coast

Just this week, new 'push back' tactics have garnered widespread condemnation from charities, politicians and even the French government, who have all questioned if the procedure is even legal.

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However, figures released on the total yearly number of asylum claims, and the number of asylum seekers currently living in the UK, paint a very different picture to the chaotic picture that repeated controversies have painted.

In fact, Home Office statistics actually show no increase in the number of refugees living in, and applying for refugee status in 2021 compared to 2020, and both years remain well below the levels of the Syrian refugee 'crisis' of 2015.

Despite this, the narrative surrounding the current number of refugees coming into the UK continues to focus on higher numbers of refugees entering via channel crossings in dinghies and small boats.

The number of asylum seekers who applied for refugee status in the UK is not at a 'record' high, and is lower than last year.

However, those making channel crossings are not breaking any law if they are crossing to claim asylum, nor have the numbers of people entering the UK to claim asylum increased.

According to the Home Office, the proportion of asylum seeking people coming to the UK via dinghies and small craft has increased – but only as a share of the total number of people coming to the UK to claim asylum, which is itself lower than the year prior.

On top of this, the number of asylum seekers entering the UK to claim asylum is lower than both in 2019 and 2015, both of which saw dramatic spikes.

The year June 2020 to June 2021 also saw 9 per cent fewer refugees apply for asylum than the year prior.

On top of this, the number of refugees currently claiming asylum in the UK is at its second-lowest point since 2015.

The number of people claiming asylum in the UK is no higher than previous years – and is much lower than the early 2000s.

It's true that these numbers are on the higher end of those recorded in the last 10 years, but context is important.

If placed in the perspective of statistics stretching back further than the past 10 years, the number of people applying to gain asylum in the UK is utterly dwarfed by stats from the last decade.

KentLive uses the term people when referring to those who cross the Channel and arrive on our shores.

That's because, regardless of their status at the point of entry, those moving from one country to the other are human beings.

You will have seen them commonly referred to as migrants. This is not incorrect.

The UN Migration Agency defines a migrant as – any person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a state away from his/her habitual place of residence, regardless of the person’s legal status, whether the movement is voluntary or involuntary, what the causes for the movement are, or what the length of the stay is.

KentLive also refers to people in these circumstances as refugees.

The UN definition of refugees is – people who are outside their country of origin for reasons of feared persecution, conflict, generalised violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order and, as a result, require international protection.

According to Refugee Action, the number of people who applied for refugee status in the UK in 2002 stood at 84,000 – the highest number on record.

The last 12 months, in comparison, have seen 31,115 applications – substantially less than half the number recorded almost 20 years ago.

Simply put, the idea that 'record' numbers of refugees are coming into the UK is demonstrably false – can only be seen as remotely factually correct up if you only count the number entering via dinghy across the channel.

The truth of the matter is that, according to the Home Office, those entering the UK via small boat channel crossings account for around 50 per cent of those who come to the UK to seek asylum.

The last few years have seen a sharp rise in the number of channel crossings via boat – but not a rise in overall numbers of applications or refugees currently living in the UK.

The facts are nuanced, complicated, and it's easy to see how repeated reports of 'record' numbers of refugees entering via one route can be misinterpreted as simply showing record numbers of refugees full stop.

Most importantly though, we should put the UK and Kent's refugee situation into a larger context – not just looking back at ourselves, but seeing how much of the total responsibility the UK is actually shouldering.

According to Refugee Action, in 2018 Germany received 161,000 asylum applications, whilst France received 114,500.

The UK received only 29,000 applications in the same year – a fraction of that of our neighbours.

Refugees and former refugees make up just 0.26 per cent of the UK's population – at 126,000 people, which is only slightly higher than the population of Maidstone.

Despite the extremely low proportion of the population made up by refugees, low total numbers coming, and the vulnerable nature of those fleeing to the UK, some still frame this as an 'invasion', as some Conservative MPs have.

Original Article