Of 29,400 people crossing the channel between June and November, only 96 were arrested on suspicion of committing the new offence of ‘knowingly arriving without permission.’
The offence came into force in June this year under the Nationality and Borders Act 2022. As part of the government’s attempt to deter migrants and ‘secure the country’s borders,’ the new offence carries a potential sentence of up to four years’ imprisonment or a fine, or both, for anyone arriving in the UK without permission.
The Home Office initially refused the BBC’s request for the number of migrants arrested under the new law. A freedom of information request eventually led to the disclosure of the figures; 96 (0.3%) of the 29,400 migrants were arrested, with 56 convicted of the crime. A Home Office spokesperson stated that 180 more individuals have been arrested since the summer under different immigration laws.
The adoption of the new Act came along with ministers’ increasing anti-immigration rhetoric and references to ‘illegal migrants’ crossing the channel, a claim disputed by refugee groups. These groups find the term ‘misleading and fail[ing] to acknowledge the complex reasons for crossings and the legal right to seek protection.’
During the new law’s time passing through Parliament, ministers stated that the new offence will not target ‘genuine refugees,’ and that 90% of those arriving in the UK have sought asylum. The Home Office said the new offence is another ‘important tool’ to combat human traffickers.
“Our Nationality and Borders Act is beginning to break through this exploitative business model, with more than 280 people already arrested since it became law,” added the Home Office.
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