Afghans taking perilous Channel crossing skyrocketed in 2022: Refugee Council research

Afghans taking perilous Channel crossing skyrocketed in 2022: Refugee Council research
The number of Afghans undertaking the perilous Channel crossing via small boats has skyrocketed in 2022, in the wake of the Taliban's return and the collapse of the Afghan economy.
2 min read
31 January, 2023
Over 6,000 Afghans are estimated to have crossed the English Channel in a small boat in 2022 [source: Getty]

The number of Afghans taking the perilous journey across the English Channel in small boats skyrocketed in 2022, data published by the UK Refugee Council has revealed following the takeover of the Taliban and the ensuing economic crisis. 

The charity's latest report entitled 'The Truth About Chanel Crossings' shows that Afghans were the second-highest nationality to arrive via small boats to the UK last year, with 6,622 individuals embarking on the dangerous trip. This is second only to Albanians, for which over 15,000 people crossed the English Channel in small boats. 

Comparatively, the number of Afghans arriving via small boats from January 1 2020 to March 31 2021 was 666 - around ten times less than 2022 figures - according to data the Refugee Council published in November 2021. 

The spike in small boat crossings comes after the withdrawal of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan led to the Taliban's return to power in August 2021.

The hardline rulers have since embarked on an authoritarian clampdown on women’s rights and minority groups, with an aid and investment flight leading to the collapse of the Afghan economy.  

Meanwhile, UK government schemes to relocate Afghans have fallen far short of their predicted numbers, with only 6,300 places "used so far" compared to the 20,000 places promised under the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme. 

It is the limited availability of safe routes which means people from places like Afghanistan, Syria or Iran are left with "no choice" but to take small boat crossings, said Refugee Council. 

Alternatively, there were no Ukrainians recorded as having crossed the Channel in the first nine months of 2022. Ukrainians fleeing war are able to come to the UK through either the Ukraine Family Scheme or the Homes for Ukraine Scheme. 

The number of Iranians, Iraqis, and Syrians arriving in the UK via small boats also increased substantially in 2022. 

While for Afghans and Syrians, the likelihood of having an asylum claim in the UK granted is 98 percent, for Iranians it is 82 percent, and for Iraqis it's 53 percent. 

"Most of the people on the boats are people with very strong claims to refugee status, people in need of safety and security," said Refugee Council.

"The Government's plan to detain and deport these refugees was inhumane, unworkable and would cost millions of pounds."