The UK Independent Chief Inspector of Border and Immigration David Neal Thursday released his first report detailing the current migrant crisis on the British-French border. The report raised concerns and criticisms about the current UK migrant management system.
Neal was first appointed to the role in March 2021 for a period of three years. As Independent Chief Inspector of Border and Immigration, Neal conducts independent reviews of UK immigration practices.
According to the Thursday report, in 2021, 28,526 people arrived on the south coast of the UK in small boats—a significant increase from 236 in 2018. The immigration centers at the heart of the report are located on the border closest to the English Channel, where migrants enter the UK from the French coast by way of small boat. The UK attempted to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda; however, the move was met with a legal challenge.
The report focused on the Home Office’s initial processing of migrants in Dover as they enter British waters. Neal criticized the current process, stating:
An inspection of the Tug Haven processing facilities, which have since closed, along with those at Western Jet Foil, both in Dover, found the Home Office’s response to the challenge of increasing numbers of migrants was poor, particularly in terms of systems, processes, resources, data collection and accurate record keeping.
Neal went to on to criticize the biometric data collection process, overall security and record-keeping throughout the initial process. Neal said, “[p]ut simply, if we don’t have a record of people coming into the country, then we do not know who is threatened or who is threatening.” The report did not find individual staff members responsible for the reported failures. Rather, it found the the Home Office’s systematic understaffing and underfunding, as well as an unwillingness to “move from a crisis response” to “business as usual,” were to blame.
The Home Office released a response to the report, addressing each recommendation individually. The Home Office claimed that many of the recommended changes have already been made and that extenuating reasons prevent the adoption of others. The Home office pointed out that:
This is an exceptionally high risk operation where the threat to life is ever present. The fact that no known deaths or serious injuries have occurred in UK territorial waters for several years speaks to the coordination of operations, the advanced technology we deploy and the skill of our officers.