'Majority of Channel migrants from Middle East,' new report finds

'Majority of Channel migrants from Middle East,' new report finds

November 17, 2021

Two-thirds of Channel migrants from Middle East: Report finds 61% of people arrive from just 10 countries, with 26% from Iran and 17% from Iraq

  • Report by British Refugee Council outlined nationalities of Channel migrants who crossed from 2020 to 2021
  • The majority of people to arrive in UK in small boats came from Middle Eastern nations such as Iran and Iraq
  • The largest number came from Iran, while thousands of people came from Iraq, Syria, Kuwait and Yemen
  • Around 8 per cent of arrivals from Vietnam, with 5 per cent from Afghanistan and 6 per cent from Eritrea

The top ten nationalities of migrants arriving on small boats to the

According to figures obtained by the British Refugee council, migrants arriving in the UK in small boats between January 2020 and May 2021 were from: 

Iran: 26 per cent

Iraq 17 per cent

Sudan 11 per cent

Syria: 10 per cent

Vietnam 8 per cent

Eritrea: 6 per cent

Afghanistan 5 per cent

Kuwait 5 per cent

Yemen 2 per cent

Ethiopia 1 per cent

Other: 9 per cent  

Nearly two thirds of migrants who cross the Channel to reach the UK are originally from the Middle East, newly released figures have today revealed.

More than 61 per cent of those who make the dangerous journey across the 21 mile straight Calais to Dover are nationals from countries such as Iran and Iraq according to figures from the British Refugee Council.

The highest number of migrants arriving in small boats are from Iran, with 3,187 Iranian nationals reaching UK shores from January last year to May this year. This accounts for 26 per cent of all arrivals in small boats over this period.

Figures also show 2,185 people from Iraq crossed the Channel over the same period. The figure makes up around 17 per cent of the 12,195 migrants who arrived in the UK in small boats across 2020 and the start of this year.

Other Middle Eastern nationalities in the top 10 countries of people who arrived in small boats include war-torn nations such as Syria and Yemen, along with oil rich Kuwait.  

From non-Middle Eastern countries, the largest number of arrivals came from Sudan, in north-east Africa. Around eight per cent of small boat arrivals were from Vietnam, while around six per cent of people arrived from Eritrea and one per cent from Ethiopia.

All of the nations in the top 10, which make up 91 per cent of arrivals on UK shores, are countries were human rights abuses and persecution are common, according to the British Refugee Council.

It comes as at least 100 migrants arrived in small boats on Kent shores yesterday before Border Force or the RNLI were able to intercept them.

MailOnline also witnessed a group of around 40 migrants carrying an inflatable boat into the Channel before launching the boat into the sea off Wimereux, near Calais.

Today Home Office minister Tom Pursglove confirmed that more than 23,000 people have arrived in small boats this year compared to around 8,500 in 2020. He admitted the government ‘must do better’.

Yesterday MailOnline witnessed at least boats full of migrants slipping away from two remote and near deserted beaches south of Calais

The Channel crossing is incredibly dangerous, and anyone attempting it risks hypothermia, as well as drowning 

Two exhausted women had to be carried ashore by fellow migrants yesterday after being brought to shore off Dungeness in Kent

Boat debris on Dunes De La Slack near Wimereux today after migrants were spotted on a boat heading into the English Channel yesterday

What happens to migrants after they have arrived in the UK? 

Migrants who have been picked up after landing or intercepted at sea are taken to a Border Force processing centre, such as Tug Haven near Dover. 

Here arrivals are triaged to identify any medical needs or vulnerabilities, fed and checked to see if they have a criminal record. Adults have an initial interview before being sent to accommodation centres across Britain, paid for by UK taxpayers and provided by private contractors. 

The migrants are given £37.75 per week for essentials like food, clothes and toiletries while they wait for a decision on their asylum application. If the claim is rejected they face deportation back to their home country. 

Kent County Council normally takes unaccompanied children into its care, although other local authorities are also involved in this programme. 

It comes as the British Refugee Council, which works with asylum seekers, today suggested that most migrants crossing the English Channel to the UK are refugees fleeing persecution.

The not-for-profit group released figures indicating around a third of the men, women and children making the journey would not be allowed to remain in the UK and that the ‘majority of people crossing the Channel are likely to be recognised as being in need of protection’ at the initial decision stage.

The findings come as one of the Government’s immigration ministers Tom Pursglove and Clandestine Channel Threat Commander Dan O’Mahoney are due to appear before MPs on Wednesday. 

Last month, Home Secretary Priti Patel claimed 70 per cent of those travelling to the UK across the Channel were ‘not genuine asylum seekers’ and the Government was ‘concentrating’ its efforts on ‘creating safe passage for genuine refugees’.

Speaking to the Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee, she said: ‘In the last 12 months alone 70 per cent of the individuals who have come to our country illegally via small boats are single men, who are effectively economic migrants. They are not genuine asylum seekers.

‘They are able to pay the smugglers … These are the ones who are elbowing out the women and children, who are at risk and fleeing persecution.’

The Refugee Council’s chief executive Enver Solomon said: ‘The reality is that people who come to the UK by taking terrifying journeys in small boats across the Channel do so because they are desperately seeking safety having fled persecution, terror and oppression.

‘This government should show compassion by welcoming those who need refugee protection rather than seeking to cruelly push them back across the channel or punish them with imprisonment. At the same time there needs to be an ambitious expansion of safe routes so people don’t have to take dangerous journeys to reach safety.’

These figures, from an FOI by the British Refugee Council, are for the top 10 nationalities. Figures used above factor in the rest of the world, which makes up around 9 per cent of arrivals in small boats

Home Office minister Tom Pursglove – one of Priti Patel’s (right) deputies – confirmed that more than 23,000 people have arrived in small boats this year compared to around 8,500 in 2020

What are the issues facing each country in the Refugee Council’s list? 


Iranians face a mixture of an authoritarian government and an economy under pressure from United States sanctions. According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), the country uses excessive force against protesters and reported abuse, torture and detention.   The country remains one of the leading users of the death penalty.  The country’s economy, while rich in natural gas and oil, is better than most of its Middle Eastern neighbours, it is struggling under pressure from United States sanctions. Around a third of Iranians have difficulty meeting their basic needs, warn HRW.


Iraq is in the process of rebuilding after a damaging four year fight against the jihadist group Islamic State. More than two million people remain internally displaced, while nearly nine million are said to need humanitarian assistance. It’s economy is oil rich, and experts at the World Bank expect the situation to improve, though they say the situation remains ‘fragile’.


Sudan is in the midst of transition to democracy, having ousted its long-term president and alleged war criminal President Omar al-Bashir in 2019. The transition has involved a failing economy and political tension, with human rights group warning of violent crackdown on protesters. Though the new Government has managed some reforms. Meanwhile, the brutal civil war in neighbouring South Sudan, which ended last February, also damaged the economy by stripping it of oil revenue. Meanwhile, citizens have suffered with huge inflation and soaring commodity prices.


Syria is 11 years into a devastating civil war which has ripped its economy apart and left millions without homes. Over 350,000 verifiable deaths have been directly attributed to the conflict so far, while more than half the country’s pre-conflict population almost 21 million population has been displaced. The civil war, which began in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring uprisings, is being fought between the Syrian Armed forces and its international allies, and several groups, including Sunni opposition, Kurdish fighters and Islamic State. 


Despite featuring high in the list, Vietnam’s economy was, at least before the Covid pandemic, actually booming. But experts say the country has a huge surplus of labour, making it hard for people to find jobs. The communist country had an abysmal human rights record in 2019, according to HRW. The government blocks access to social media and websites, while critics are often kept in prison without legal counsel for months, HRW warn. In 2019, authorities convicted at least 25 people in politically motivated cases, HRW say. 


The situation in the north-east African nation has been improving since 2018. After a long liberation war, Eritrea regained self-rule in 1991 and full independence in 1993. But it had a long conflict with its neighbour Ethiopia starting in 1998. Though the brunt of the fighting ended in 2000, tensions continued before a treaty was signed in 2018. International sanctions were lifted that year, and the economic outlook looks better for Eritrea, so say the World Bank. However poverty remains widespread, while the countries revolutionary leader Isaias Afwerki has been accused of totalitarianism, with human rights groups warning of forced labour, unlawful detention and a crackdown on freedom of speech.


Afghanistan’s problems are well documented, having been the front and centre of the world’s news focus earlier this year. The country is under the control of a new Taliban government, which has already been accused of cracking down on rights and freedoms in the wake of the departure of Western troops. The UN earlier this month say 23 million Afghans face draught and famine this winter.


Oil rich Kuwait is one of the richest countries in the world per capita. However there have been human rights concerns. In 2019, the population of Kuwait was estimated at 4,420,100, with non-Kuwaitis accounting for 70 per cent of the population. But human rights groups are concerned about its Kafala sponsorship scheme for migrants, which is often seen to be linked to trafficking, forced labour and abuses and excessively long hours, confiscated passports and physical and sexual abuse. 


The country is in to a six year armed conflict that has killed and injured over 18,400 civilians and human rights groups say it remains the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. It has the world’s worst food security with 20.1million people – nearly two thirds of the population – needing food assistance in 2020. Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when Houthi insurgents, Shiite rebels with links to Iran and a history of rising up against the Sunni government, took control of Yemen’s capital and largest city, Sana’a, demanding lower fuel prices and a new government. Following failed negotiations, the rebels seized the presidential palace in January 2015, leading President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his government to resign.


With more than 112 million people, Ethiopia is the second most populous nation in Africa after Nigeria, and the fastest growing economy in the region.  However, it is also one of the poorest, with a per capita income of $850. The country is involved in conflict in the Tigray region, where the government are fighting the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The UN High Commission earlier this month warned of human rights issues, some of which it warns may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The charity has called on the Government to rethink its Nationality and Borders Bill, which is making its way through Parliament and intends to make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission.

This means that, for the first time, how someone enters the UK – legally or ‘illegally’ – will have an impact on how their asylum claim progresses and on their status in the UK if that claim is successful.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has also called for the legislation to be scrapped, warning it could worsen the mental health of refugees and migrants.

Separate research suggests rates of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in detained refugees and migrants are around twice as high as for those not in immigration detention.

The review of evidence published in the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ BJPsych Open journal analysed nine studies conducted over the past two decades focusing on the UK, US, Canada, Australia and Switzerland.

Some 23,075 refugees and migrants were detained in the UK between April 2019 and March 2020, according to Home Office figures.

A department spokesman said the UK had a ‘long history of welcoming those in genuine need’ but ‘we must put an end to dangerous journeys’, adding: ‘Our New Plan for Immigration provides the only long-term solution to fix the broken system and that’s why we’re changing the law to deter illegal entry and break the deadly business model of the people smugglers.’ 

It comes as pictures showed two 50ft long inflatable dinghies being loaded with up to 40 migrants each on a beach in northern France yesterday morning before being pushed towards Britain by people smugglers. 

While French police completely failed to spot the departure, journalists did – filming the migrants as they manhandled the inflatables down from the cliff tops to reach the sea from two remote beaches south of Calais. 

Around 100 migrants are understood to have crossed the Channel by boat yesterday. A total of 1,185 people crossed the Channel last Thursday, eclipsing the previous daily high of 853. Yesterday around 40 arrived. 

There have been more than 20,000 crossings this year, with the UK accusing Paris of failing to do enough to stop them.  

A migrant bound for the UK told MailOnline that people traffickers don’t travel to the UK on dinghies. They provide the boat and the lifejackets and take the migrants to the beach to wait for the moment to launch the boat.

Wading in the water up to their knees, the smugglers then help the migrants onto the boat and show them how the engine works before pushing them off the shore towards the UK. 

It came as French riots cops yesterday began clearing out the Grande-Synthe camp where 1,500 migrants were staying as they tried to get across the Channel into the UK.

Thirty police vans filled with officers from the French national reserve police were on-site this morning as migrants – including women and young children – packed up their belongings and were taken away.

Migrants will be taken to nearby ‘centres’ so their asylum cases can be assessed and given accommodation in sports halls and other public buildings, local media said. It is unclear how many will be allowed to remain in Europe. 

The police operation came just hours after Mr Darmanin spoke with British counterpart Priti Patel migrant crossings in the Channel, which have hit record levels in recent days despite commitments from both sides to reduce them to zero. 

Exhausted migrants were seen being carried onto Dungeness Beach yesterday after being taken ashore on an RNLI lifeboat.  

Yesterday there were cheers and whoops from one boat as they started their Yamaha outboard engine and headed out into the surf, intent on a new life in the UK. 

Most of the two groups were seen wearing bright orange life jackets although a few did not have any buoyancy aids as they left from the beaches near the seaside town of Wimereux

The incredible scenes unfolded without a single police officer being seen anywhere in the area, despite the French authorities having pledged to crack down on migrant boats.

The boats set sail after a MailOnline reporter witnessed lifejackets being openly handed out at a makeshift migrant camp in Grand Synthe near Dunkirk.

Groups of men were seen arriving with bags crammed full of the brand new bright orange life jackets as charities gave out free food and medication on Monday afternoon.

Later several groups of migrants were seen waiting at a nearby bus stop opposite an Auchan superstore, carrying their life jackets in bags.

A migrant from one group who said he was an Iraqi Kurd told MailOnline: ‘We are all Arabs. 

‘Some of us are from Syria. We just want to get to the UK.’

Asked about the prospect of the dangerous Channel crossing, he shrugged his shoulders and added: ‘Of course we are going to cross the sea, but we don’t know when it is going to happen.

‘We have been given our jackets and we are waiting for instructions. 

‘We don’t know if it will be tonight?’.

The migrant said he had arrived in Grand Synthe after being smuggled in lorries from Turkey, but he refused to say how much he had paid people smugglers.

He added: ‘The conditions in the camp here are filthy. We have only been here five days and I cannot wait to leave.’

The migrants who had sent the night hiding in sand dunes were seen manhandling two huge 50ft long black inflatables down cliff tops to reach the sea 

There were cheers and whoops from one boat as they started their Yamaha outboard engine and headed out into the surf, intent on a new life in the UK

A loaded boat – with people smugglers pushing it from behind – heading into a choppy Channel towards Britain this morning 

Migrants wearing life jackets waiting for the departure from a near-deserted beach near Calais at dawn yesterday

Around 40 migrants were brought ashore at Dungeness yesterday by an RNLI lifeboat. They included two exhausted women who had to be carried ashore. This was not believed to be the same group pictured leaving France this morning 

French riot cops moved in to dismantle the tent encampment this morning. It has been home to some 1,500 migrants hoping the reach Britain

Around 1,500 migrants, most of whom were hoping to make the journey to the UK, have now been taken away to asylum centres so their claims can be assessed

Home Office spent £7,000 on 700 Domino’s pizzas for migrants in just TWO DAYS 

By Harry Howard for MailOnline  

A Dover branch of fast food chain Domino’s was forced to close last week after Border Force officers ordered hundreds of pizzas to feed migrants who had crossed the Channel.

Officials are said to have bought around 700 pizzas over the course of two days at a cost of more than £7,000. This figure was more than the agency spent on pizza for migrants in the whole of July.

According to The Times, Border Force said they had to order emergency food supplies after being ‘completely overwhelmed’ by the record number of crossings from France last week. 

Nearly 4,000 migrants arrived in the first 11 days of November – more than double the figure that the Home Office had expected.

Discarded pizza boxes  


Members of the group were seen intently looking at their mobile phones while apparently waiting to be told where to go as they waited for one of the Dunkirk area’s free local buses.

Scores of migrants were seen arriving on Monday evening in Wimereux around 40 miles south of Grand Synthe, and walking through the town centre towards the beach.

Some had huge backpacks stuffed with their meagre possessions, and apparently hiding their lifejackets.

It is believed that they headed off on clifftop path to the beaches just north of the town where they were able to wait on the sand dunes, hidden by bushes and vegetation.

A MailOnline reporter heard the excited chatter of a migrant group on the beach in the darkness at La Pointe Aux Oies around two miles from Wimereux at 6.15am yesterday.

The voices including those of children gradually got fainter as the group were seen heading off towards the beach.

Lights from torches were briefly seen as they apparently climbed into a boat at low tide around 200 yards from the cliff top dunes.

Around 15 minutes later a group of three or four men were seen heading back up the beach towards the dunes, suggesting that they had successfully launched the boat.

Shadowy figures were seen returning to the beach around 30 minutes later and briefly heading off towards the sea and then walking back as if they were checking the conditions.

At least two men stayed on the beach, and was seen periodically walking back up to the dunes as dawn slowly broke just after 8am.

A huge group of migrants suddenly appeared around half an hour later. carrying their fully inflated outsize boat down the clifftop through the dunes.

They dashed across the sand with the boat before boarding it in near perfect conditions as the waves gently lapped around them.

Members of the group said they were all Iraqi Kurds and one claimed to have been stuck in France for seven years before they headed off into the busy shipping lanes.

Minders who had escorted the boat to the sea were seen running back up the beach as the outboard spluttered into life and the vessel headed off into the early morning mist.

Three suspected people smugglers flee after helping the migrants set sail at dawn yesterday on a beach near Calais 

The pair were talking to a man in a lifejacket.  MailOnline witnessed lifejackets being openly handed out at a makeshift migrant camp in Grand Synthe near Dunkirk

A migrant bound for the UK told us that people traffickers don’t travel to the UK on dinghies themselves. They provide the boat and the lifejackets and take the migrants to the beach to wait for the moment to launch the boat 

A man appears to collapse while being helped ashore by fellow migrants at Dungeness this afternoon 

At around the same time, a MailOnline photographer witnessed another 50ft long black inflatable boat being carried down the neighbouring beach at Fort d’Ambleteuse by a group of around 50 migrants.

Shouting was heard as most of the group clambered on board until the boat seemed to be at full capacity.

A small group of around ten people including a child remained on the beach, possibly to avoid overcrowding the boat.

A man dressed in blue shorts and wearing a visor cap and a top with luminous sleeves appeared to give instructions to those still on the beach.

It also looked like he was checking the bindings of their lifejackets, suggesting perhaps that they could get a place on the next boat.

The two beaches are divided by a rocky outcrop although they are joined by paths at the top of the cliffs.

MailOnline found the wreckage of what appeared to be a deflated inflatable on the rocks, suggesting that an earlier voyage had come to grief.

End of Dunkirk’s ‘New Jungle’: Riot cops move in to smash up squalid migrant camp

By Chris Pleasance for MailOnline 

France is clearing out a migrant camp near Dunkirk dubbed the ‘New Jungle’ after 1,500 people set up camp there.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin tweeted Tuesday that police had sent to dismantle the camp, located on dis-used industrial land in the commune of Grande-Synthe. Thirty police vans filled with officers from the French national reserve police were on-site this morning as migrants – including women and young children – packed up their belongings and were taken away.

Migrants will be taken to nearby ‘centres’ so their asylum cases can be assessed, local media said. It is unclear how many will be allowed to remain in Europe.

Mr Darmanin tweeted: ‘On my instruction, the police are proceeding with the evacuation of the illegal migrant encampment in Grande-Synthe this morning.

‘Thank you to the police and gendarmes mobilized, as well as to the agents of the 59th prefecture who ensure their shelter.’

The police operation came just hours after Mr Darmanin spoke with British counterpart Priti Patel migrant crossings in the Channel, which have hit record levels in recent days despite commitments from both sides to reduce them to zero.

A joint statement issued after the phone call vowed greater cooperation between the two countries to make the Channel migration route ‘unviable’.

However, Mr Darmanin’s office was keen to insist on Tuesday that the clearance of the Dunkirk camp was not a direct result of that call and had been pre-planned. 

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