Contrary to an official report, the number of illegal migrants entering Europe this year could rival last year’s figures, a report has suggested, putting the UK on track to receive 40,000 asylum applications.
Officially, the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean by boat is so far drastically down on last year’s total of 1,015,078, being on course to reach about a third of that figure, according to the UN’s refugee agency. But a new report has suggested that the number of arrivals this year is actually comparable to last year, the Telegraph has reported.
The report, by the Overseas Development Institute, estimates that although 330,000 people will arrive in Europe through “overt” channels, normally across the Mediterranean, a further 560,000 migrants are also set to arrive via “covert” channels, such as travelling by plane using false documents, concealing themselves in vehicles, or overstaying visas.
It predicts that Britain will receive around 43,381 asylum applications in 2016, costing the state over £620 million. Separate figures show that 38,878 asylum claims were lodged in 2015.
Europe wide, the think tank predicts that 890,000 asylum applications will be lodged by the end of 2016, noting: “This large discrepancy between new arrivals and new asylum applications suggests that there are many people whose journeys to Europe we know little about.”
Marta Foresti, the author of the report, said: “While on the surface, the number of people arriving in Europe has fallen, the rate of those taking hidden routes to Europe has not been affected and is likely to increase.
“These covert routes can be more dangerous and make it harder for governments to monitor migration and design effective responses.”
Earlier this month, British ministers announced that construction will soon begin on a “great wall” at Calais designed to stop migrants from breaking into lorries headed across the Channel, following widespread reports that lorry drivers were being threatened with makeshift weapons.
There have also been reports that smugglers are using dinghies and other small vessels to land migrants on beaches and in smaller ports along the English south coast, leading to calls for more border protection.
But Ms. Foresti said that increasing legal routes into the country would be “the only way to be able to predict flows” and make “pragmatic decisions” about how to manage immigration levels.