The death of 27 people, including three children, trying to make their way across the channel from France has renewed calls for something to be done to stop people being at risk of drowning while attempting to reach the UK.
Create safe routes
Home Office figures show that the number of people seeking asylum in the UK remains around the same as two years ago. But fatalities of people crossing the Channel have risen.
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, said this was because there was a lack of “safe and legal routes” for asylum seekers. “We must remember that dangerous journeys take place because the government provides no safe alternative for people to exercise their right to seek asylum here,” he said.
The Dubs amendment
The Dubs amendment, named after Labour peer Lord Alf Dubs who came to Britain as a refugee in 1939, required the government to accept a number of unaccompanied refugee children and reunite them with family members in the UK. But ministers decided not to maintain the scheme. Wednesday’s tragic events have led to demands it be brought back.
A new visa system
Under current rules people can only claim asylum in the UK when they are physically here. The Refugee Council has said a new system should be introduced to allow people to apply for a visa to enter the UK for the purposes of claiming asylum. This would, the charity said, reduce the need for people to make dangerous journeys across the channel. “It doesn’t have to be this way – humanitarian visas would enable people in need of protection to travel to the UK in a safe manner,” they said.
‘Boots on the ground’
But the government is focusing on preventing people from arriving rather than facilitating safer passage. Boris Johnson has called on France to agree to joint police patrols along the French Channel coast. Pierre-Henri Dumont, the MP for Calais, rejected the prime minister’s proposal as a “crazy solution” that “will not change anything” along the long shoreline.
Ministers have also refused to rule out using the so-called “pushback” tactic, which would see migrant boats told to turn back at sea before reaching Britain, as long as UK Border Force patrol commanders deem it safe to do so. But the Lib Dems described the tactic as “cruel” and called for the home secretary Priti Patel to pledge never to use it.