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International relations

Illegal immigration in the UK: causes and counteraction activities

Radzion Arina Olegovna

Master's Degree, Department of International Relations, Peoples' Friendship University of Russia, Moscow, Russia

117198, Russia, g. Moscow, ul. Miklukho-Maklaya, 6

Grishina Natal'ya Rinatovna

Master's Degree, Department of Theory and History of International Relations, Peoples' Friendship University of Russia

117198, Russia, g. Moscow, ul. Miklukho-Maklaya, 6

Zamaraikina Lyubov' Nikolaevna

Master's Degree, Department of Theory and History of International Relations, Peoples' Friendship University of Russia

117198, Russia, g. Moscow, ul. Miklukho-Maklaya, 6










Abstract: The subject of this study is statistical data related to the illegal immigration in the UK, as well as the opinion of scientists regarding the causes and consequences of these processes. The goal is to structure the available data, identify the correlation between events, identify causes and consequences, and indicate possible ways to solve the problem. Methods of statistical analysis, induction, and comparison are used in this work. The study used a systematic approach, which resulted in the following conclusions: the arrival of illegal migrants to the UK in most cases occurs through the La Manche Channel; among the positive consequences of an increase in the number of migrants are: an increase in unskilled labor, unpredictable economic growth in 2021; among the negative, we can note an increase in the number of crimes committed by non-citizens of the country, in comparison with the number of crimes committed by citizens. The novelty of the study is: the dynamics of migration in the period 2019-2021 are revealed; it was revealed that the increase in the dynamics of migration from Iran to the UK in the period 2019-2021 was associated with the pandemic of coronavirus infection, a drop in living standards in Iran and the socio-political situation in Afghanistan; it was found that the consequences of illegal migration for the UK were unpredictable economic growth in 2021, as well as an increase in the crime rate among non-citizens of the country.


Great Britain, English Channel, Iran, illegal migration, labor force, crime, Economy, pandemic, standard of living, migration

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

Subject. Statistical data on illegal migration to the UK in the period 2019-2021, the positions of scientists on the causes and consequences.

Research methods. The authors analyzed a large amount of information, starting with scientific literature and ending with journalistic articles. Using the induction method, a correlation was established between, with a cursory study, unrelated events. For example, a war in one state and an increase in the standard of living in another. The assessment of events is given and, based on the analysis of statistical data, the existence of interrelations between them is proved.

Appeal to opponents. Many scientists and researchers have addressed the topic of illegal migration in their writings. Suvorova V. A. and Eremina N. V. investigated the migration crisis in Europe. Andreeva T. N., Kondratieva T. S. in their works focused on the main directions of UK immigration policy and the problem of leaving the European Union. Zubarev A.V., Khakhalkina E. V. covered the problem in the light of the consequences of the Brexit referendum.

The novelty of the study:

- the causes and consequences of illegal migration in the United Kingdom are systematized;

- based on statistical data, the structure of migration in the country has been revealed;

- the dynamics of migration in the period 2019-2021 has been revealed.;

- it was revealed that the increase in the dynamics of migration from Iran to the UK in the period 2019-2021 was associated with the pandemic of coronavirus infection, a drop in living standards in Iran and the socio-political situation in Afghanistan;

- it was found that the consequences of illegal migration for the UK were unpredictable economic growth in 2021, as well as an increase in the crime rate among non-citizens of the country.

The main part. There is no definition of an illegal migrant in the legislation of the United Kingdom. However, it is generally believed that there are four main ways to become one:

1. Regularly visiting the UK and violating the conditions under which entry or temporary stay was granted, such as an expired visa, performing unauthorized work or a criminal record;

2. Entry into the territory of the state illegally or fraudulently, for example, when using forged documents or in the case of false information about the purpose of entry;

3. Stay in the country after the official refusal to grant asylum and the exhaustion of all judicial instances when appealing the said decision;

4. In case of birth in the UK from parents who are illegal migrants. There is no birthright citizenship in the UK.

One of the most extensive and comprehensive empirical studies of illegal migration in the UK, based on 175 interviews, showed that although more than half of the respondents reported stress and anxiety caused by their status, almost no one was stopped by hostility from the indigenous population and the political situation.[1]

An attempt to establish the exact number of illegal migrants in the country faces the problem of counting. For this reason, counting attempts have been described as "counting the uncountable."[2]

Migrants arrive in the UK, including through the English Channel. "Arrival on a small vessel" is a phenomenon that was rare until 2019, but since then its number has increased dramatically. A small boat is just one of a number of nonstandard ways in which a person can get to the UK border and request entry without permission.

Let's turn to the schedule:

Figure 1 Dynamics of arrivals on small boats [3]

In 2021, 28,526 people were detected arriving by small boats. For comparison: in 2020 there were 8,466, in 2019 1,843 people, and in 2018 299 people. [3]

In November 2021, the largest number of small boat arrivals over the past four years was recorded (6971). The number of arrivals in each month of 2021 was higher than in the comparable months of 2020. In 2020, the number of arrivals was higher in summer and peaked in September, reflecting seasonal weather conditions. In 2021, the number of arrivals also increased in the summer months to September, but rose sharply again in the fall, peaking in November.

It is obvious that the increase in the number of migrants began in 2019 and continued until 2021. Let's consider the reasons for such dynamics.

In December 2019, an outbreak of the COVID-19 virus was recorded in China. [4] On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization declared this outbreak a public health emergency of international importance, and on March 11 a pandemic. The UK government announced further measures: social distancing and the beginning of counseling people about "non-essential" trips and contacts with other people, as well as that people should avoid pubs, clubs and theaters and, if possible, work from home. Restrictions related to air travel were also introduced.

We can assume the following. Starting in 2020, the United Kingdom found itself "isolated" from the rest of the world, the possibilities of migration "by air" were greatly hindered, as a result of which the need to cross the border across the English Channel increased, which was used by migrants arriving in the country on "small boats".[5]

The pandemic is not the only reason encouraging people to cross the border illegally.

The following graph confirms this:

Figure 2 Number of migrants arriving by country [3]

In 2021, 30% of arrivals were Iranian citizens. The next most common nationalities were Iraqis (21%), Eritreans (11%) and Syrians (9%). Iranians accounted for the vast majority of small boat arrivals in 2018 (80%) and 2019 (66%). However, since 2020, more nationalities have been detected crossing the border.[3]

The reasons why Iranians actively migrated to the UK in 2021 are as follows. Iran borders with many countries, but in the east - with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Starting from May 1, 2021, in connection with the announcement of the final withdrawal of American troops from the country, the militants of the terrorist organization "Taliban" launched an active offensive operation against the government forces of Afghanistan, as a result of which the Taliban took the leadership of the country into their own hands. [6] The above events can be assumed to correlate with the number of Iranians who migrated in 2021.

Rybakovsky L.L. gives the following reasons for external migration. [7] The main reason is economic in nature: the difference in the level of wages for the same job. The absence of specialists in a particular field of professional activity in a certain region increases wages for this type of work and, accordingly, is a trigger for an increase in the number of migrants. External labor migration is characterized by an increasing number of highly qualified specialists in its composition. This type of migration dates back to the 1930s, when the United States of America began to select scientists and researchers who fled from the Hitler regime in Germany. The researcher believes that migration partly depends on wars (emigration from the Eastern bloc countries, the countries of the former Yugoslavia, to the USA, Great Britain and Europe), political conflicts (emigration of African republics) and natural disasters (migration from Montserrat to the UK due to volcanic eruption).

According to the ranking of countries by standard of living for 2022, the UK ranks 21st. [8]

Iran ranks 82nd. The unemployment rate in Iran is 10.8%, the country has a high corruption index, business and financial transactions are problematic in it, there is a drop in GDP, a state budget deficit and an increase in external debt (42.8%). [9]

L.L. Rybakov's research, as well as the above information about the standard of living and the economic situation in the country, indirectly confirm our assumptions about the reasons for the migration of Iranians to the United Kingdom.

However, the effects of migration should be considered specifically in the United Kingdom.

The positive impact of migration is reflected in an increase in cash flow to the exporting country, improved working conditions for the local population and increased investment. It is obvious that part of the money earned by migrants goes to their homeland, to their families. This, in turn, stimulates economic growth in the State from which migrants come. We can also talk about the revision of the policy of the importing State in relation to something, i.e. about stimulating political processes and positive changes in legislation caused by the influx of migrants.

In addition, in 2021, the British economy showed growth of 7.5%. [10] The authors of the article explain the growth by the fact that the state provided billions of pounds of assistance to companies in order to increase the number of jobs. We can assume that the increased flow of migrants in 2021 required more jobs, which eventually stimulated the growth of the country's economy.

Migration processes also have negative consequences. First of all, we are talking about the psychological consequences both for the migrants themselves and for the citizens of the country to which they arrived. In addition, we are talking about personal risks. Illegal border crossing is dangerous in itself and is associated with health risks. If we are talking about modern consequences, it makes sense to mention the deterioration of the epidemiological situation in the importing state. [11] Thus, one of the reasons for the increase in the number of cases can be attributed to illegal migration, since arrivals do not undergo the necessary procedures, for example quarantine.

The negative consequences of illegal migration also include an increase in the crime rate for the host country. [12]

Returning to the "small boats" and migration from Iran, we can confidently say that these processes have stimulated changes in the protection of the UK's water borders. [13]

The article claims that in 2022, about 60,000 people will make a dangerous journey across the English Channel on board small boats, as it turned out that the British Home Office agreed to pay 234,000 pounds for the charter of a private vessel to help border services. That is, on the one hand, illegal migration led to a revision of the policy of protection of border water areas, but, at the same time, the result was an even greater influx of refugees and an increase in the burden on border services.

What steps could the UK have taken and has already taken in an attempt to stop the flow of illegal migrants?

In February 2020, the British government made a statement on reforming the migration system. The reforms proposed a point system, the purpose of which is to reduce the influx of workers who do not have any qualifications. [14] In this case, the Government referred to the experience of Australia, where the applicant receives permission to get a job if the required number of points is obtained. Points are awarded based on several parameters: age, availability of special knowledge, spoken English, work experience and some others. It was also proposed to reduce the wages of migrants from 30 to 25 thousand pounds.

Recalling Donald Trump's proposal to build a wall along the border with Mexico, we cannot consider this option due to the fact that migrants enter Britain mainly through the English Channel.

The authors give some examples based on statistical data, but it makes sense to add the following thesis concerning the problem of statistics. In his book "Think Slowly, Decide Quickly" Daniel Kahneman, a cognitive psychologist, states the following. [15]

Statistical data, even competently selected and structured, can lead to an error of heuristics, casuality. That is, the information, which is true in itself, leads us to misconceptions about the causes of the phenomenon, which largely depends on the sample of research objects. [16] In the case of illegal migration to the UK, one can raise the question of the validity of statistical data, since migrants are units that pose a problem for reliable counting.

This does not mean that statistics cannot be trusted, or that Daniel Kahneman's opinion is the ultimate truth. We only believe that these arguments should be the reason for further research on the issue of illegal migration, stimulate the use of more accurate scientific tools and develop critical thinking among future researchers developing this topic.


The arrival of illegal migrants in the UK in most cases occurs through the English Channel. In 2021, most of those who arrived illegally in the country were Iranians, the next most common nationalities were Iraqis, Eritreans and Syrians.

The reasons why Iranian immigrants migrate to the United Kingdom in such numbers are as follows: The high standard of living in the UK and the low standard of living in Iran, as well as the tense socio-political situation in the territories bordering Iran, are partly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For the UK, a positive consequence of the increase in the number of migrants was the increase in unskilled labor. Among the negative ones, we can note an increase in the number of crimes committed by non-citizens of the country, in comparison with the number of crimes committed by citizens.

Of the possible ways to solve the problem of illegal migration, the UK has focused on strengthening the water borders of its territory, as well as on the introduced point system. To date, this problem does not have exhaustive solutions and requires further research.

1. Düvell F.Does immigration enforcement matter (DIEM)? Irregular migrants and control policies in the UK: Final report/ Cherti M. & Lapshyna I. Oxford: Centre on Migration Policy and Society (COMPAS), 2018.
2. Kelly C. B. Counting the uncountable: Estimates of undocumented aliens in the United States//Population and Development Review. 1977.-3(4). p. 473-481
3. GOV.UK [Electronic source] URL: https://www.gov.uk (accessed: 04/29/2022)
4. GOV.UK Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK [Electronic source] URL: https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk / (accessed: 04/29/2022)
5. The Sunday Times [Electronic source] URL: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/hunt-for-contacts-of-coronavirus-stricken-pair-in-york-dh363qf8k (accessed: 04/29/2022)
6. News. Even the Taliban are surprised at how fast they're advancing in Afghanistan. [Electronic source] URL: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/national-security/even-taliban-are-surprised-how-fast-they-re-advancing-afghanistan-n1272236 (accessed: 04/29/2022)
7. Rybakovsky L. L. Factors and causes of population migration, the mechanism of their relationship // Population. Volume 20. No. 2. pp. 51-61., 2017
8. Ranking of the countries of the world by standard of living in 2022 [Electronic source] URL: https://migrantumir.com/reyting-stran-mira-po-urovnyu-zhizni / (accessed: 04/29/2022)
9. World Data Atlas. Iran. [Electronic source] URL: https://knoema.ru/atlas/Iran (accessed: 04/29/2022)
10. Forbes. [Electronic source] URL: https://www.forbes.ru/finansy/455335-ekonomika-velikobritanii-pokazala-samyj-bol-soj-rost-so-vtoroj-mirovoj-vojny (accessed: 04/29/2022)
11. Coronavirus. [Electronic source] URL: https://coronavirus-monitor.info/country/uk / (accessed: 04/29/2022)
12. The level of crime in the world. [Electronic source] URL: https://visasam.ru/emigration/vybor/prestupnost-v-mire.html (accessed: 04/29/2022)
13. SkyNews. [Electronic source] URL: https://news.sky.com/story/nearly-60-000-people-set-to-cross-english-channel-in-2022-as-home-office-agrees-234-000-spend-on-charter-boat-12557219 (accessed: 04/29/2022)
14. GOV.UK [Electronic source] URL: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-uks-points-based-immigration-system-policy-statement (date of reference: 04/29/2022)
15. Kaneman D. Think slowly, decide quickly. Moscow: AST, 2014. Balinova V. S. Statistics in questions and answers: Textbook. Moscow: Welby, Prospect Publishing House, 200

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This article is devoted to the analysis of statistical data on illegal migration in the UK. It should be noted that migration flows towards the European Union actualize the problem of "South and North" identified by S. Huntington in the mid-90s of the twentieth century in his concept of "Clash of Civilizations". Poorer countries, the inability to have stable jobs, confidence in the future, push people to seek a better life. The United Kingdom, despite leaving the EU, is still an attractive country for migrants in many ways, as it has diverse cultural communities and a relatively lenient policy on the association of non-citizens. This article is made on a very relevant topic, since it can be assumed that in the coming decades migration flows will continue to increase, and often we are talking about illegal (going beyond the formal field) migration. Such a problem is very difficult to study, since traditional sociological methods do not work due to the fear of potential respondents being subjected to expulsion. The author has approached the structure of the article very consistently and formally - the introduction identifies the subject, research methods, and its practical scientific novelty. It also contains a description of the main part of the publication, which begins with a normative analysis of British legislation in the field of migration. A key methodological problem is identified - the difficulty in calculating the real number of migrants. The article is comprehensive in nature, based on empirical data that allow us to indicate a certain dynamics of the growth of migration flows to the UK. The author also analyzes the UK's place in the overall global migration flows and the main donor countries that "supply" migrants, which allows us to identify the key causes of this phenomenon. In addition to traditional unemployment, social upheavals such as civil wars, outbreaks of infectious diseases (COVID-19) in 2021 also became the engine of migration flows. The author highlights the positive and negative effects for the British state from illegal flows, but less attention is paid to their real adaptation on the territory of the country, the conditions of their stay. The article should be supplemented with a social portrait of the average migrant from the Middle East, describe the mechanisms of their association and the legislative framework for reducing social tension within the state in connection with this issue. The list of references from 15 sources, among which the majority are Internet sources, also does not seem quite sufficient. It needs to be supplemented. The article requires revision and further consideration, moreover, it is less correlated with the topic of the journal "International Relations". It is recommended to consider the publication "National Security".