Migrants from Turkey one of only a handful of nationalities to have bucked overall decline in number of crossings. The number of people from Turkey reaching the UK increased from 1,127 in 2022 to 3,060 last year, making Turkey the third biggest nation for small boat arrivals after Afghanistan and Iran. Migrants from Turkey are one of only a handful of nationalities to have bucked the overall decline in the number of crossings. Overall crossings fell by 36 per cent from 45,774 in 2022 to 29,437 last year – which was still the second highest annual total on record.
In August, Britain negotiated a new agreement with Turkey to boost cooperation in dismantling the supply of dinghies to people smuggling gangs.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) believes most of the small boats that leave for the UK are constructed in backstreet workshops in Turkey before being paired with outboard motors shipped from China. The boats are then transported to Germany, where they are stored, before being dispatched on demand to the French coastline.
The Government is in talks to establish a returns agreement that would allow the fast-track deportation of Turkish migrants.
A Whitehall source said: “The problem arises when a few people from a nationality come via small boat and it’s proven it is possible to stay in the UK. Then they follow in much greater numbers.
“We have a very low asylum grant rate for Turkish arrivals, so the issue is returns cooperation. We have tried very hard to improve returns cooperation, but progress is incremental.
“The numbers crossing are so large we need a revolution in returns cooperation to remove the incentive for Turks to cross. Until then, they will continue to cross.”
The Turks crossing the Channel are largely economic migrants or criminals, the source said, adding: “There is practically no-one of Turkish nationality on a small boat that is fleeing for their lives.
“In the extremely unlikely event you are a dissident fleeing, you are going to fly. You are not going to take a small boat from France. Those on small boats are all economic migrants or intent on criminality.”
The biggest numbers were from Afghanistan at 5,579 (down on last year by 39 per cent), Iran at 3,581 (down 39 per cent), Turkey, Eritrea at 2,668 (up 32 per cent), Iraq at 2,549 (down 44 per cent), Syria at 2,333 ()down 22 per cent) and Sudan at 1,633 (down seven per cent).
Indian migrants saw one of the biggest increases, up 60 per cent to 1,194 last year. This was largely from the start of the year when Indians were able to travel visa-free through Serbia, but this route has been closed, leading to a sharp decline at the end of the year.
Crossings by Albanians – who accounted for a quarter of the 45,774 people who crossed the Channel in 2022 – fell by 93 per cent after the Home Office agreed a fast-track returns deal, brought in new rules to restrict modern slavery claims and instituted a crackdown on illegal working and cannabis farms run by Albanian gangs in the UK.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Our priority is to stop the boats, which is why we have taken robust action to crack down on vile people-smuggling gangs, deter migrants from making dangerous crossings and, alongside our French counterparts, intercept vessels. Our relentless action has seen crossings fall by 36 per cent in the last year.
“We have a very close partnership with Turkey when it comes to tackling the shared problem of illegal migration. Our strong collaboration includes UK and Turkish law enforcement officers participating in joint operations to tackle organised immigration crime.”