THE NUMBER of refugees and migrant workers crossing the Channel has fallen year-on-year for the first time since current records began.
Government figures show the total arrivals in 2023 were down by more than a third on 2022.
The provisional annual total for the year, 29,437, is 36% lower than the record 45,774 crossings for the whole of 2022.
The last crossing of the year was on December 16, when 55 people made the journey from France in one boat.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants says: ‘We want a fair, compassionate and just immigration system
‘We keep fighting for:
- A fairer more efficient and more humane migration system, with laws based on sound evidence;
- No migrant or refugee is made destitute, denied fundamental rights or forced to live in fear;
- Greater access to justice and greater respect for human rights, human dignity and the rule of law;
- The benefits of migration are celebrated and shared, with no community left behind.
We Are Here
‘We all deserve to be treated fairly and equally. But people who move to the UK are treated as “temporary” residents for years, even decades, before being able to access basic rights.
‘Maintaining the right to remain in the UK is complex and extremely expensive, pushing families into poverty and destitution.
‘A small error, an illness or just bad luck can push someone to lose their status and become vulnerable to hostile immigration policies. Once that happens, the system makes it almost impossible to change course and regain status, safety and support.
‘We Are Here is a campaign to help break the cycle of insecure immigration status, enabling people to live and thrive as part of our communities, instead of living in prolonged precarity. We are calling for:
- A simplified routes to status based on five years’ residence;
- Abolishing the 10-year route to settlement and capping all routes to settlement at five years;
- Scrapping the ‘no recourse to public funds’ visa conditions, so everyone can access state support;
- Cutting extortionate visa fees and making visa renewals automatic and affordable.
Work It Out
‘All workers should have decent pay, safe working conditions and rights protections, regardless of where we are from or what sector we work in.
‘Yet hostile environment policies in the workplace and lack of protections make migrant workers particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
‘Restrictions on work visas mean it is often impossible for people to escape those conditions. We have to stand up for the rights of all workers.’
Work It Out is a campaign for migrant workers’ rights, and calls for:
- Everyone to have the right to work, regardless of what papers they hold;
- Repealing the criminal offence of ‘illegal working’ and ending discriminatory ‘right to work’ employer checks;
- Prioritising decent conditions over immigration enforcement, by a firewall separating the police and labour inspectorates from Immigration Enforcement and enforcing minimum working standards more rigorously;
- Ending the cycle that puts workers at the mercy of exploitative employers, by ensuring all work visas include pathways to permanent settlement within a reasonable timeframe, the ability to change jobs easily and creating routes to regularisation via employment;
- Scrapping the ‘no recourse to public funds’ visa condition so everyone can access state support.
Ending the Hostile Environment
Since 2012, it has been an explicit aim of government immigration policy to create a ‘hostile environment’ for anybody unable to demonstrate their immigration status on demand.
From the ‘Go Home’ vans driven through ethnically diverse neighbourhoods to passport checks in hospitals and schools, the government has worked to create a climate of fear and hostility, criminalising and impoverishing those who may find themselves without the correct papers.
‘These are the same policies that have seen long-term residents of the UK, including members of the Windrush Generation, denied healthcare and the right to work and even detained or deported illegally.
JCWI has long warned of the devastating consequences of these measures. And are working hard, with many others across the UK, to dismantle the Hostile Environment and fight for better, fairer policies.
To achieve this, the government must abolish the Hostile Environment in its entirety so everyone can live fully in society without fear of discrimination or criminalisation. This includes:
- Ensuring everyone has access to state support regardless of immigration status;
- Repealing the NHS Charging and data-sharing schemes;
- Repealing discriminatory right to rent and work checks;
- Ending restrictions on bank accounts and driving licenses;
- Ending immigration raids;
- Ending cooperation and data sharing between Immigration Enforcement and police, local authorities, and public services.
‘We all deserve to seek and build a home where we can feel safe. Many of our clients have had to move to the UK in search of sanctuary, says the JCWI.
‘But the government is turning away people at their hour of need with new laws that effectively ban asylum in the UK. Until there are safe routes for people to travel to the UK, people will be pushed into dangerous journeys, and vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers.
‘We support asylum and refugee organisations and community groups to advocate for stronger and fairer asylum and refugee protection, including:
- Restoring the universal right to seek asylum, starting by repealing the Illegal Migration Act and the Nationality and Borders Act, and by strengthening support for the United Nations Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights;
- Abandoning the Rwanda plan and all other third-country forced resettlement agreements;
- Processing asylum claims fairly and quickly in a trauma-informed way, without discrimination based on country or way of travel;
- Making it easier for family members to join refugees who have been resettled in the UK;
- Providing housing in communities and the right to work for people who are waiting for their asylum decisions.
Access to justice
‘The UK claims a proud tradition in the rule of law, fairness, and justice. Yet cuts to public funding including to legal aid means justice is only available to those who can afford it.
‘Recent laws like the “Illegal Migration Act” reduce fair process under the law by scapegoating and excluding refugees from human rights protections. And the government is evading accountability by making it harder for us to protest or challenge unjust laws in court.
‘We must restore equal access to justice for all as a foundational pillar of our society by:
- Upholding rule of law, where everyone has the same access to justice under the law;
- Investing in and expanding legal aid so everyone can access legal support and representation;
- Providing information to empower people to know their rights and access legal advice;
• Fighting against anti-democratic and oppressive anti-protest laws and defend everyone’s human rights.’