Access to the territory and push backs

United Kingdom

Country Report: Access to the territory and push backs Last updated: 21/06/21


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Access to the territory and push backs



Juxtaposed border controls in France and Belgium allow the UK to limit access to the territory. On 18 January 2018 the two governments reiterated their commitment to juxtaposed controls in the Sandhurst Agreement, although no new measures were introduced relating to the operation of those controls.[1]


Since 2018, possibly as a result of the increased security measures in the Sandhurst agreement the number of people attempting to cross the channel in small boats increased, with much media attention.[2] The government responded with statements condemning the actions and pledging both to return those who travel from France and promising to treat such people in the criminal justice system as well as making agreements with the French government to prevent people from leaving in this manner.[3] The Home Secretary appointed a Clandestine Channel Threat Commander in August 2020.[4] In September 2020 a parliamentary committee opened a new inquiry on the issue of channel crossings and asylum-seeking routes thought the EU and has taken written and oral evidence.[5] At her political party’s annual conference the Home Secretary pledged to amend the system; giving the message that the mode of arrival is relevant to the way someone’s claim should be dealt with.[6] In the autumn the government increased the transfers under the Dublin Regulation, apparently as the deadline for such transfers was approaching. It began tweeting this information from the Home Office’s account on a regular basis, usually conflating the transfers with removal of former offenders.[7] The Clandestine Threat Commander stated that this was part of a deterrent measure.[8] These transfers, often using charter flights, were widely criticised,[9] particularly as it was revealed that people arriving irregularly from France, primarily in small boats, were subject to superficial questioning to ascertain little more than their recent journey and failure to identify vulnerabilities. This practice had to cease when it was challenged legally; the Home Office was ordered to conduct the interviews according to its regular procedure. [10]


[1]Secretary of State for the Home Department, ‘Statement to Parliament’, HCWS415, 19 January 2018, available at:

[2]Skynews, Desperate migrants cheer ‘UK’ as several boats cross English Channel in one morning, 11 August 2020, available at:; BBC, Home Office seeks military help over migrant crossings, 8 August 2020, available at:

[3]Tweet from official Home Office twitter account stating that in 2020 116 arrests were made. See for example:

[4]Government announcement: Home Secretary appoints small boats commander, August 2020, available at:

[5]Home Affairs Select Committee, at:

[6]Home Secretary’s speech to the Conservative Party conference, October 2020, available at:

[7]Tweets from the Home Office account at:

[8]Dan Mahoney twitter,at:

[9]Media report with Freedom of Information data, Deportation Flights to the EU Have Increased Threefold, As the UK Rushes to Return Asylum Seekers Before Brexit, 20 November 2020, available at:

[10]Case note and link to judgment Da and Ors, available at:













Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection