What is the small boats crisis?

Recent "Irregular migration" statistics from March 2022 up to March 2023

Irregular Migration is the term used by the Home Office to designate those entering the country without permission to do so.   The document linked below outlines the bare statistics for "Irregular Migration".  

Irregular migration to the UK, year ending March 2023  (May 2023)


It is obviously not possible to exactly count the number of small boat arrivals precisely - many were likely detected quickly, but others may have arrived without detection.   However, there has been a significant rise in the numbers of irregular migrants arriving over the year from March 2022 up to March 2023.

Quoting from the document:

"There were 45000 people detected arriving by small boats in the year ending March 2023. Fifty-twp per cent of those people arrived in the 3 months of August, September, and October 2022. The month of August 2022 saw the highest number of small boat arrivals (8,631) of any month since data has been collected. The total in the year ending March 2023 was 42% higher than in the year ending March 2022" 

The number of small boat crossings in that period is broadly the same as for the earlier year (approx: 1100).   The increase is due to an increase in the average number of people per boat

"In the year ending March 2023, there was an average of 43 people per small boat. This has increased compared to the year ending March 2022, when there was an average of 29 people per small boat and is much higher than 2020 (13 people per small boat), 2019 (11 people) and 2018 (7 people)."

This means that the number of people at risk of danger and harm per boat crossing has significantly increased.

Most of those arriving via "small boats" claim asylum:

"The majority of small boat arrivals claim asylum. In the year ending March 2023, 90% (40,444 of 44,797 arrivals) had an asylum claim recorded either as a main applicant or dependent, at the time of data extraction. However, small boat arrivals account for less than half (44%) of the total number of people claiming asylum in the UK in the year ending March 2023."

"Most asylum claims from small boat arrivals are still awaiting a decision. More recent periods will naturally have a higher proportion of asylum applications awaiting a decision, as less time has passed to allow for applications to be processed. Ninety-three per cent (33,299) of small boat asylum applications in the year ending March 2023, or 78% (57,371) of all small boat asylum applications since 2018, are awaiting a decision. Just over 1% of the small boat arrivals applying for asylum in the year to March 2023 had received an initial decision within the same year."

Contributors: Mark Collins, Paul Hazelden, Brian Monahan

Prev: Recent media coverage       Top: Immigration      Next: What is asylum all about?
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