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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

IPPR: New migration stats show failure of Afghan refugee resettlement as small boat crossings rise

Over 1,000 Afghans arrived by small boats showing resettlement scheme failing to provide safe routes to refugees

Providing more safe routes is vital to preventing dangerous crossings and tackling asylum system backlog, says IPPR

IPPR’s analysis of today’s quarterly migration and asylum statistics, covering the year ending March 2022, highlights the following trends:

  • Afghan nationals are now the largest group of people crossing the Channel. Over 1,000 Afghans arrived by small boat in the first quarter of 2022, nearly a quarter of the total number of arrivals.
  • The numbers of people resettled under the UK’s established resettlement routes, excluding the bespoke Afghan and Ukraine schemes, have not recovered since the pandemic. Resettlement cases in the first quarter of 2022 were just over 400, around half the figure two years ago in the first quarter of 2020.
  • The number of asylum applications pending decision have more than doubled in the past two years as the Home Office has taken longer to process applications. The number of asylum applications pending initial decision was around 89,000 at the end of March 2022, compared with around 41,000 at the end of March 2020 (main applicants only).
  • Work visa grants have increased rapidly in the past two years. Around 182,000 skilled work visas were granted in the year ending March 2022, a 66 per cent rise compared to the year ending March 2020.

Commenting on the figures, Marley Morris, IPPR associate director for migration, trade and communities, said: 

“Today’s migration stats show a shocking rise in the number of Afghans arriving in the UK on small boats. The government has said it is giving Afghans a ‘warm welcome’, but these figures reveal that many have felt they have been left with no option but to take this dangerous route to make it to the UK.

“Now the government’s new plans in response to the Channel crossings could mean that Afghan asylum seekers will be sent to Rwanda. This would be an unimaginably awful outcome for people who have already faced such great hardship.

“The figures also show that since the start of the pandemic resettlement numbers – outside the bespoke Afghanistan and Ukraine routes – have fallen sharply. Contrary to the government’s claims, there are few safe routes for people forced into small boats to make it to the UK.

“To fix our broken asylum system, the government must urgently ramp up the UK Resettlement Scheme, invest in an efficient process to fairly decide asylum applications, and rethink its plans to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda.”


Available for interview: Marley Morris, IPPR Associate Director for Migration, Trade and Communities, and Amreen Qureshi, Researcher for Migration, Trade and Communities


David Wastell, Director of News and Communications: 07921 403651 [email protected]

Robin Harvey, Senior Digital and Media Officer: 07779 204798 [email protected]


  1. IPPR is the UK’s pre-eminent progressive think tank. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence.