Earlier last week, on August 11th, British and French officials met to discuss a new plan to put an end to migrants’ attempts to cross the English Channel in small, often overcrowded, dinghy boats. UK immigration minister Chris Philp declared that the new action plan aims to make the route unviable following a rise in people trying to reach the English coast in recent weeks. Since the start of August, more than 650 migrants have arrived in the UK via small, often overcrowded, dinghy boats, and it is estimated that around 4,000 people have crossed the Channel in this way since the beginning of the year.
Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ latest polling asked respondents in the UK whether they think asylum seekers who travel from France in small boats across the Channel should be allowed to settle in the UK. We found that a large majority (63%) of Britons answered “No” to the question while 21% answered “Yes.”
Our findings reveal a clear partisan divide, with respondents who voted for the Conservative party in 2019 significantly more likely (63%) to oppose the idea that asylum seekers arriving in the UK from France should be allowed to settle than those who voted for Labour (45%). Interestingly, just 36% of those who voted Labour in 2019 answered Yes to the statement, indicating that a plurality of Labour voters is actually aligned with Conservative voters and with the Government on this issue.
If respondents generally oppose the idea of allowing asylum seekers arriving from France to settle in the UK, this subset of respondents is somewhat split when asked about the best way to handle their arrival. Almost half (49%) of this group answered that they favoured sending the asylum seekers back to France, while 36% favoured sending them back to their home country. By contrast, 5% of respondents would favour detaining asylum seekers in the UK.
Under the so-called Dublin regulations, asylum claims are transferred to the first European member state a migrant arrives in. As of next January, however, the regulations will cease to have effect in the UK, leading many Conservative MPs to call for a tougher approach to migration .
Prior to the talks, tensions had been escalating between France and the UK as London accused Paris of failing to address the problem of migrant crossing. Our research shows that the publics shares such sentiment, as almost three quarters (73%) of UK respondents agree that French authorities are not playing their part in stopping migrants crossing the Channel.
Similar to our findings above, Conservative voters were more likely to express their resentment towards France’s handling of immigration (88%) than Labour voters (64%). Nonetheless, these figures represent majorities of both Conservative and Labour voters who think France is failing to step up to its role. Needless to say, public perception does not appear completely aligned with what UK Ministers are saying, with Chris Philip recently stating that France was doing “a great deal of work” in intercepting people attempting to cross the Channel.