Facts about Channel crossings and why people make them

There are a lot of misconceptions about why men, women and children seeking asylum risk their lives crossing the Channel. Here are the facts.

As the UK’s biggest independent provider of refugee services in the country, the British Red Cross helps over people in the UK at all stages of the asylum process every year.

We hear many stories from the people we support, and know exactly why asylum seekers take make the tough decision to cross the Channel.

Joining family already in the UK

Many people cross the English Channel in the hopes of finding and joining family who have already made it to the UK. Often people are separated from their loved ones as they flee their homes or on their journey in search of safety, which can take many years. 

If you think about where you might go if your home was being bombed or your life was at risk because of persecution, it would probably be somewhere where you know someone. We would all want to be able to hug and hold our family again after experiencing such horrors. 


Knowing some of the language

Knowing some of the language gives women, men, and children the best possible chance of rebuilding their lives. It is much easier for people to make friends, volunteer, study at school, book doctors’ appointments, and navigate the complex legal process of claiming asylum if they have some familiarity with the language. 

Refugees have had to leave everything – homes, jobs, and family – behind. It’s understandable they would seek out something familiar that would help them feel safe. 

People smugglers dictate journeys

Some refugees are forced to rely on smugglers to get them to a safe country. This is all too often because there are no official routes for people to seek asylum in the UK.

People who have faced persecution by their government or community often need to leave in secrecy also. 

This forces people to put their life in the hands of smugglers and be taken from place to place, often without knowing where they are. 

Under the new Illegal Migration Act, people will be unable to claim asylum because of the way they arrived, when they may have had no choice.

This will leave them in a state of limbo, unable to rebuild their lives here and very unlikely to be able to return home.



Understand more about the asylum process

Learn about the asylum process and the people seeking safety in the UK.


Behind the headlines

Lean more about the lives and experiences of refugees and asylum seekers. 

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