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Migrant crossings resume as report warns asylum seekers at risk of exploitation

Small boat crossings in the English Channel resumed on Thursday following a quiet two days (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Small boat crossings in the English Channel resumed on Thursday following a quiet two days (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Small boat crossings in the English Channel resumed on Thursday following a quiet two days.

No crossings were recorded on Tuesday or Wednesday, according to figures from the Ministry of Defence.

A total of 696 people made the dangerous journey on Monday, the busiest day for Channel crossings so far this year, and were taken to the Port of Ramsgate due to concerns about traffic around the Port of Dover.

Border Force ship Hurricane brought around 40-50 people, including a small number of children, into Dover on Thursday morning, and activity in the Channel suggested there would be more later in the day.

The news came after a report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the British Red Cross, published on Wednesday, found that critical gaps in the UK asylum system mean people seeking safety – including those fleeing modern slavery – may be at risk of potential exploitation.

These include an over-reliance on people having to self-identify as victims of exploitation and too much focus on immigration enforcement rather than safety and protection, meaning people often feel unable to disclose their experiences.

Inadequate training for government officials, delays to decision-making, poor housing and too little support also all make people vulnerable to poverty and exploitation, the report said.

The research found that inadequate support is exposing people in need of protection to potential harm.

It cites examples of vulnerable asylum seekers forced into modern slavery, including domestic servitude, sexual and labour exploitation and forced criminality.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
A UN and British Red Cross report found that critical gaps in the UK asylum system mean people seeking safety may be at risk of potential exploitation (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The report concludes: “Straightforward changes to the asylum process would reduce these risks of exploitation by putting safety at the heart of the asylum system.”

Recommendations include:

– Improved screening at all stages of the asylum process to ensure that vulnerabilities and risks are identified and addressed.

– Individual safety should be prioritised over immigration enforcement to ensure safeguarding is not set aside.

– Accommodation should be safe and secure.

– Decisions should be made in good time to avoid unnecessary delays and enable people to start rebuilding their lives as rapidly as possible.

– More timely support for people after they have had a positive asylum decision to help them access housing and financial assistance.

British Red Cross executive director Zoe Abrams said: “We have listened to the powerful stories and testimonies of those who understand our asylum system best – people with first-hand experience of living in it and working with it.

“They have told us our current system is failing to protect vulnerable people and is unintentionally putting them at risk of exploitation.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, where you have come from, or how you got here; people seeking asylum in the UK must be kept safe. In the debate about managing migration we must focus not only on enforcement but also on humanity.

“The UK has a proud history of helping people fleeing war and persecution – we are privileged as a country to be able to provide safety to those in crisis.

“By putting safety at the heart of our asylum system we can ensure people can live in dignity with the support they need whilst they wait for their case to be decided.”

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, on board a Border Force vessel (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The Home Office said it is considering the findings of the report.

A spokesman said: “We take the safety and wellbeing of thousands of people in asylum accommodation support extremely seriously and are committed to ensuring that individuals are protected from the heinous crime of modern slavery.

“Where we suspect an asylum seeker is in danger or at risk of exploitation, we will take the appropriate action, such as working with the police or supporting someone through the National Referral Mechanism. We would urge any asylum seeker who may be in trouble to report it immediately.

“Our New Plan for Immigration will fix the broken asylum system, enabling us to grant protection to those entitled to it and to remove those with no right to be here more quickly.”