The number of asylum applications to the UK has reached the highest levels in almost two decades, figures released by the Home Office show, amid a surge in illegal crossings of the English Channel.
The number of claims reached 37,562 in the year to September, which is the highest total since 2004, the figures show.
That is an 18% jump on the previous year and even more than at the peak of the European migration crisis in the year ending June 2016, when 36,546 applications were received.
"The increase in applications is likely linked in part, to the easing of global travel restrictions that were in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and to an increase in small boat arrivals to the UK," a Home Office spokesperson said, as quoted by Press Association.
Iranians were the top nationality claiming asylum every year since 2016. It was followed by Eritrea and Albania in the year ending September 2021. The number of applications from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan increased by almost 40% in the year to September.
The numbers have prompted anger in light of the death of 27 migrants who were trying to cross the Channel from Calais to reach the UK on Wednesday.
Green Party's Caroline Lucas said on Thursday that if the ministers are serious about "breaking the business model" of the people-traffickers, "they need to establish safe and legal routes to asylum, without requiring people to be on UK soil in order to claim asylum here."
The Home Office said it offered protection, in the form of asylum, humanitarian protection or alternative forms of leave and resettlement, to 13,210 people, including dependants, in the year to September.
A UK Government spokesperson said the statistics demonstrate "the complex scale of the global migration crisis."
"A significant proportion of asylum claims in the last year should have been made in a first safe country, rather than people risking their lives making dangerous crossings, facilitated by people smugglers. Yesterday's tragedy serves as the starkest possible reminder of the dangers of this," the spokesperson said.
French authorities have blamed the British labour market for being "too attractive" to illegal migrants, while the UK government claims that France does not do enough to prevent the migrants from embarking on dangerous trips.
According to the British media, almost 26,000 people have crossed the Channel this year, which is already three times higher than the number of crossings registered in 2020.