Access to the territory and push backs

United Kingdom

Country Report: Access to the territory and push backs Last updated: 30/05/23


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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] A report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration into the juxtaposed controls has little mention of asylum claimants, although it does mention ‘ethical decision making’ through the use of discretion for Ukrainians without visas.[2]

Discussions have taken place between the two states regarding responsibility for search and rescue as well as preventative measures. In January 2022 the UK government announced that the military would play a role in what appeared to be pushbacks, not search and rescue. During an urgent parliamentary debate, the Defence Minister stated that the Royal Navy would play a deterrent rather than a pushbacks role (including the use of Sonic booms) but was not speaking on behalf of the entire government.[3] A challenge to the policy and practice of pushbacks resulted in a consent order whereby all relevant policies were withdrawn.[4]

The UK government continues to blame ‘criminal smuggling gangs’ and individuals themselves for the danger to life – condemning the actions of both 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. The Home Secretary appointed a Clandestine Channel Threat Commander in August 2020.[5] In September 2020 a parliamentary committee opened a new inquiry on the issue of channel crossings and asylum-seeking routes throughout the EU and following written and oral evidence published its report in July 2022.[6] The government responded in October 2022. The response indicated that its recent reforms (including the 2022 NABA and Rwanda plan) were aimed at deterrence and shortly afterwards a new announcement was made outlining cooperation with the French authorities including monitoring the French coastline, investment in reception and removal centres in France and more funding for surveillance and detection technology.[7]




[1] Secretary of State for the Home Department, ‘Update on the Levelling Up Bill – Statement made on 6 December 2022’, HCWS415, 19 January 2018, available at:

[2] ICIBI, An inspection of juxtaposed controls – April-May 2022, October 2022, available at:

[3] Hansard parliamentary record ‘Migrant Crossings: Role of the Military’, 18 January 2022, available at:

[4] High Court, R (on the application of (1) PUBLIC AND COMMERCIAL SERVICES UNION (2) CARE 4 CALAIS and Secretary of State for the Home Department, Consent Order, CO/4338/2021, 25 April 2022, available at:

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

[6] Home Affairs Select Committee, at:, including first report and government response. Case note and link to judgment Da and Ors, available at:

[7] UK Government, ‘UK-France joint statement: enhancing co-operation against illegal migration’, 14 November 2022, 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