Updates, commentary, training and advice on immigration and asylum law

New report looks at the criminalisation of people who arrive in the UK in small boats


Older content is locked

A great deal of time and effort goes into producing the information on Free Movement, become a member of Free Movement to get unlimited access to all articles, and much, much more


By becoming a member of Free Movement, you not only support the hard-work that goes into maintaining the website, but get access to premium features;

  • Single login for personal use
  • FREE downloads of Free Movement ebooks
  • Access to all Free Movement blog content
  • Access to all our online training materials
  • Access to our busy forums
  • Downloadable CPD certificates

Last week we published a briefing on the legal changes to the criminalisation of people seeking asylum in the UK and a new report “No Such Thing as Justice Here” looks at the impact these changes have had in practice. The report is published by the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford and Border Criminologies and based on observations of over 100 hearings as well as the casework of Humans for Rights Network, Captain Support UK and Refugee Legal Support. The report states that:

Despite the Government’s rhetoric, both offences target people with no role in organised criminal gangs. The vast majority of those convicted of both ‘illegal arrival’ and ‘facilitation’ had ongoing asylum claims. Victims of torture and trafficking, as well as children with ongoing age disputes, have also been prosecuted.

Those who were charged faced short hearings in the magistrate courts, usually within 48 hours of their arrival. Proceedings were often complicated or significantly delayed by poor interpretation and faulty video link technology. Bail was routinely denied without proper consideration of each individual’s circumstances.

In the first year following the changes made by the Nationality and Borders Act, 240 people arrived on small boats and were charged with ‘illegal arrival’. In 2022, one person for every ten boats that arrived was arrested for their alleged role in steering, this increased to one in seven in 2023. Despite this, as also acknowledged by the Court of Appeal in R v Ginar [2023] EWCA Crim 1121, there is no evidence of any deterrent effect, which was the government’s justification for these changes. This is about causing harm, and little else.

Interested in refugee law? You might like Colin's book, imaginatively called "Refugee Law" and published by Bristol University Press.

Communicating important legal concepts in an approachable way, this is an essential guide for students, lawyers and non-specialists alike.

Relevant articles chosen for you
Picture of Sonia Lenegan

Sonia Lenegan

Sonia Lenegan is an experienced immigration, asylum and public law solicitor. She has been practising for over ten years and was previously legal director at the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association and legal and policy director at Rainbow Migration. Sonia is the Editor of Free Movement.