LONDON — The number of migrants who arrived illegally in Britain in small boats in 2023 was 29,437, provisional government figures showed, around 36% lower than the previous year.
In 2022 a record 45,775 people were detected arriving on small boats to England’s southern beaches after making the dangerous journey across the Channel, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made “stopping the boats” one of his top five priorities, and is seeking to revive a plan to send those who arrive illegally in Britain to Rwanda after it was blocked by the courts.
Britain is currently spending more than 3 billion pounds a year on processing asylum applications, with the cost of housing migrants awaiting a decision in hotels and other accommodation running at about 8 million pounds a day.
The backlog of asylum applications awaiting a decision hit a record high of just over 134,000 in the year to June, with the number of those applying the highest in two decades.
The interior ministry, the Home Office, said on Monday the government had met a pledge made by Sunak in December 2022 to clear the legacy backlog of 92,000 asylum cases by the end of 2023.
More than 112,000 asylum cases were processed in 2023, it said, with a grant rate of 67%, lower than 2022 rate of 76%.
“By clearing the legacy asylum backlog … we are saving the taxpayer millions of pounds in expensive hotel costs, reducing strain on public services and ensuring the most vulnerable receive the right support,” Sunak said in a statement.
“But we cannot be complacent, which is why I am focused on delivering on my commitment to stop the boats and get flights off the ground to Rwanda.”