Four in five Britons disapprove of the government’s handling of asylum seekers crossing the Channel

Isabelle KirkData Journalist
November 30, 2021, 9:41 AM GMT+0

The British public overwhelmingly disapproves of the government’s handling of the issue of migrants crossing the English Channel by boat, according to a new YouGov/Times survey.

The Channel crisis has dominated the news cycle in recent days, with 24 November marking the deadliest day on record with 27 people drowning, including a pregnant woman and three children.

Our latest data shows that four in five Britons (82%) think the government is handling the issue of Channel crossings by asylum seekers badly, with just 7% saying they’re handling it well.

The government’s current approach to migrant crossings is unpopular even among those who currently intend to vote Conservative, with three-quarters (77%) of current Tory supporters saying the government is handling the issue poorly, and 14% saying they’re handling it well.

Among the British public, there is not much more confidence in Labour being able to deal more effectively with the crisis. Some 38% say they think a Labour government would handle the issue of migrants crossing the Channel by boat ‘about the same’ as the current government, while 26% say Labour would handle it worse, and just 18% better.

What do Britons think the main reasons are for the recent increase in migrants attempting to cross the Channel?

Channel crossings by asylum seekers reached a record high this year, with Home Office figures suggesting at least 25,000 have attempted the journey to date and French authorities believing the figure to be more than 30,000.

Opinions are divided on the question of why migrants leave France and undertake the perilous crossing to the UK, and why that number has increased so rapidly (tripling over the last year).

A quarter of British adults (25%) say the French government’s handling of the issue is the main reason for the increase, while 10% say the British government’s approach. Some 18% attribute the rise primarily to increased instability elsewhere in the world, 12% to a lack of legal ways for refugees to reach Britain and 10% to open borders within the European Union. A further 5% say Britain’s exit from the EU is most to blame.

What policies do the British public think should be put in place going forward?

The issue of asylum seekers crossing the Channel by boat is a controversial one, and debate has raged between UK and French officials about the correct way to handle the issue and prevent further loss of life.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently accused Britain of failing to act seriously to find a solution, after Boris Johnson tweeted a public letter condemning France’s handling of the crisis.

Two-thirds (68%) of Britons think that the UK should refuse to accept asylum applications from people who have entered the UK illegally and could reasonably have claimed asylum in another safe country.

The majority (61%) also support attempting to intercept migrant boats in the English Channel and turning them back towards France – a measure which is already authorised for Border Force officials in limited circumstances and that is strongly opposed by the French government.

Around half (47%) of respondents support sending people who apply for asylum in the UK to another country while their application is processed. Currently, 98% of those who arrive in the UK via the English Channel apply for asylum.

However, younger Britons are more likely than older ones to oppose these policies. Some 41% of 18 to 24-year-olds oppose refusing to accept asylum applications from those entering the UK illegally who could have claimed asylum somewhere else, 46% oppose intercepting boats in the Channel, and 44% oppose sending asylum seekers to another country while their application is processed.

See the full results here

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