MPs slam Priti Patel for scrapping ‘vital’ daily migrant figures as Channel crisis worsens

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Fury has erupted over government plans to drop publication of daily Channel migrant figures as Tory MPs accuse Priti Patel of ‘burying the bad news’, saying the information was ‘vital’ to assess the progress made in the fight against the current crisis.

The Home Office is currently releasing data after arrivals have been processed by the UK Border Force, usually the next day, but this could stop when the Ministry of Defense (MoD) resumes migrant interception operations , he revealed last night.

The UK Statistics Authority has reportedly raised concerns about the way migrant figures are currently released, but not releasing the figures would expose ministers to accusations of trying to hide crucial information from the public.

A Home Office source said they are “reviewing the advice” from the authority “to ensure that the underlying trends and total number of small boat arrivals can be presented clearly”.

The department is now set to release the figures every three months, but the move has drawn criticism from Tory MPs – with one saying it “sounds more like burying bad news than to be transparent about crossings,” reports The Telegraph.

Another unnamed curator said: “It looks like a cover-up, and no doubt journalists will come up with their own numbers based on people arriving in Tughaven. [the migrant processing centre in Dover] and access to information requests.’

Alp Mehmet, chairman of Migration Watch UK, called the decision “absolutely absurd and undemocratic”.

He told GB News: ‘I can’t believe it. I thought ‘who is advising her [Patel] to do this?”.

‘It’s completely absurd. People are not going to sit idly by and wait for the numbers to come out. Everything will come out anyway. It’s probably because they don’t like flack when a lot of people are coming.

“It’s absolutely nonsense and undemocratic. The numbers are clearly on the rise. My assumption is that the numbers will go up and keep going up.

Former UKIP leader and MEP Nigel Farage also called the proposal “shameful”, saying it “must not be allowed” because people are “seething”.

On Twitter, he added: “It’s a shame. The Home Office doesn’t want us to know the truth.

Priti Patel has been accused of ‘burying the bad news’ Government plans to drop publication of daily Channel migrant figures

Official figures show more than three times as many migrants have arrived in Britain so far this month as in the whole of January last year. UK authorities have intercepted more than 950 migrants so far this year, more than triple the 223 in January 2021. Last year, 28,381 people were intercepted in the English Channel, compared to just 8,410 in 2020.

Border Force officials bring migrants ashore in the Port of Dover after arriving at Speedwell on January 19

Border Force officials bring migrants ashore in the Port of Dover after arriving at Speedwell on January 19

What happens when a person arrives in the UK after crossing the English Channel?

By Rory Tingle

The vast majority of people crossing the Channel in small boats seek asylum, according to the Refugee Council. At this point, the process of what happens varies depending on whether it is an adult, an unaccompanied minor or a family unit.

ADULT

1 – Immediately transferred to a short-term detention center scattered throughout the country, usually in the south of England. Fingerprints are taken and they have a selection interview where they provide their name, date of birth and nationality. This registers them in the asylum system.

2 – A day or two later asylum seekers were usually sent to a hostel run by the Home Office, but in recent years these have become full so officials use hotels.

3 – Two to three weeks later they are dispersed in a town or city anywhere in the UK in ‘community accommodation’ – although these timescales have stretched in recent years. Additionally, dispersal accommodation was often fully booked, so the Home Office relied on accommodation rented from three private providers. Asylum seekers receive accommodation and £39.63 per week as a cash allowance.

4 – Asylum seekers receive a form called a Preliminary Information Questionnaire (PIC) where they are asked why they fear persecution. At some point, they are invited to the Home Office for a background interview where they will be asked questions based on information from their screening interview and the PIC form.

4 – If the initial decision is a refusal, the applicant can appeal to an independent tribunal. Their accommodation and support would continue.

5 – If they get a first refusal and they don’t appeal or their appeal is denied, they become what is known in official jargon as “exhausted appeal rights”. The Home Office will send them a letter stating that they will be deported and weekly support will cease.

6 – They have the option of subscribing to the Voluntary Return Scheme, under which the Home Office will pay for their flights. If they do not register, they risk being arrested and detained by immigration officials, or even forcibly deported. But there are not enough detention spaces for people in this situation, so they often become homeless and destitute, the Refugee Council said.

CHILD

Children (under 18) are sent to a short-term detention center for a much shorter period and then placed in the care of a local authority. A social worker and housing are allocated to them.

The Home Office cannot deport minors if they have been separated from their parents. However, if their asylum application is rejected, they could benefit from a form of authorization to stay until the age of 17 and a half.

FAMILY

The only slight difference is that if a family becomes a case of “exhausted appeal rights”, the Home Office will not evict them from housing or cease financial support.

And Tory MP for Dover Natalie Elphicke said: ‘This is not a statistical exercise – this is a serious crisis where people are being exploited daily by criminal gangs and lives are tragically being lost.’ The daily numbers are essential so that progress in tackling this crisis can be properly tracked.

This follows revelations that the army will start building camps to house up to 30,000 Channel migrants from next month.

Plans are being drawn up for soldiers to build temporary accommodation on Ministry of Defense land across the UK.

The project is expected to cost tens of millions of pounds. Home Secretary Priti Patel privately told Tory MPs that work on the first phase was due to start within weeks.

Government sources insist the scheme will be cheaper than the current accommodation provided for migrants, which has seen thousands placed in three- and four-star hotels on a full-board basis.

Ministers hope the move to temporary hostel-style accommodation on military bases will also have a chilling effect on migrants considering crossing the Channel.

On the network of new camps, a Whitehall insider said: “There will be accommodation built at a number of bases across the country.

“We think it will be a deterrent. People will be housed in temporary prefabricated buildings and not in medium-sized hotels once the project is rolled out.

The exact locations have not been disclosed, but a new secure site for the initial processing of Channel migrants has opened in recent days at a MoD site in Manston, Kent.

It is understood that it must house illegal immigrants for up to five days after they arrive in the UK, but its role will now be expanded to provide longer-term accommodation.

In addition, the government has hired planning consultants to manage requests for the continued use of Napier Barracks in Folkestone.

It has housed up to 350 asylum seekers since September 2020 and ministers plan to keep the site running until at least 2025. Sources have confirmed that Napier’s capacity will be expanded under the new project.

Accommodation of migrants at MoD sites will be controversial as Napier has drawn criticism.

A report by an all-party parliamentary group last month described the “appalling conditions” at the base and likened them to “virtual detention”, although occupiers are free to come and go as they please.

A government source said: “The Ministry of Defense will be responsible for sorting accommodation for migrants upon arrival. This will likely involve the use of more barracks or other similar spaces in Napier.

“We want to reduce the use of hotel rooms for asylum seekers, which is currently higher than we would like.”

It comes after reports the Home Office is predicting a worst-case scenario with up to 65,000 arrivals across the Channel this year.

Almost 28,400 migrants reached Britain last year, up from 8,410 in 2020. More than 940 have been intercepted by UK authorities so far this month, more than four times January’s figure from last year.

This does not include yesterday’s arrivals – which are believed to number around 25.

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