Migrants who crossed Channel in boats claim damages for ‘unlawful’ treatment


People thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent following a small boat incident in the Channel (PA)

Sixteen asylum seekers who crossed the Channel in small boats three years ago have made damages claims against the Home Office after complaining about their treatment on arrival in England, a High Court judge has heard.

The migrants have complained about “unlawful” searches, mobile phone seizures and “data extraction”, “non-return” of “items”, or possessions being returned “damaged”, Mr Justice Nicklin was told on Tuesday.

Lawyers representing ministers indicated that claims were being disputed.

Mr Justice Nicklin, who oversaw a preliminary High Court hearing in Court 13 at the Royal Courts of Justice complex in London, said the case would be reconsidered next year.

The judge said the migrants could not be named in media reports of the case.

He said issues relating to the reporting of names would be reconsidered at another hearing.

A barrister representing the migrants indicated that each was claiming about £20,000.

“Between 25 April and 6 November 2020, the claimants crossed the English Channel in small boats from Calais,” Eric Metcalfe told the judge in a written case outline.

“On their arrival in the UK, each of the claimants claimed asylum.

“They were also searched – in some case strip-searched – by (Home Office) officials.

“Among other things, the (Home Office) seized their mobile phones and any SIM cards and told them they were required to provide their PIN codes.”

He added: “In every case, the (Home Office) failed to return the claimants’ phones and SIM cards for a period of several months.”

Mr Metcalfe indicated that claimants were getting legal aid.

In March 2022, three asylum seekers won a court fight with then-home secretary Priti Patel after she admitted that their mobile phones were unlawfully seized under a blanket policy aimed at migrants crossing the Channel.

The trio had challenged the lawfulness of the circumstances and policies under which they were searched.