This year marked an unusually high number of migrants attempting to cross the English Channel from France.
In August, at the height of the crossings, more than 4,900 had arrived on the shores of the UK in small boats, carrying men, women, and children desperate to find refuge within the safety of our borders.
As the year ends, 8,000 have made the perilous journey across the Channel.
The summer was replete with opinions falling on either side of the spectrum – those wanting to keep migrants out and those fighting to let them in. As the weather grew colder, crossings have become less frequent and news coverage of the plight of refugees has diminished.
In the quiet, Priti Patel has announced the Home Office will join forces with the French government to spend £28.2m on increased measures to make the Channel crossings unviable. Drones, radar equipment, cameras and optronic binoculars have all been agreed upon in order to detect and stop migrants on their 21-mile journey across the Channel. Additionally, the number of French police patrolling the coastline is set to double.
These measures cost money, and we, the British public are paying for them.
Our taxes are being used to breach the human right for any person to seek asylum. But this isn’t the message the Home Office wants to send.
In her announcement, Patel stated: “We should not lose sight of the fact that illegal migration exists for one fundamental reason: that is because there are criminal gangs – people traffickers – facilitating this trade.”
The truth of her claim can’t be denied. Human traffickers and people smugglers do prey on the vulnerabilities of refugees. When people are desperate for safety, a fair asylum process, and to be reunited with loved ones, they will go to great lengths to find it. And people traffickers provide the answer: dangerous journeys across the Channel on trains and lorries.
Her message, at first glance, seems to paint the Home Office in a positive light. After all, the government just want to protect refugees from making the perilous journey into the UK provided to them by criminal gangs.
That’s what they want us to think.
Charities, advocates, and human rights organisations are unanimously calling for the same thing: viable routes from France to the UK.
In fact, they are doing everything they can to keep refugees out of the UK. From deporting migrants arriving on small boats upon arrival, to spouting jargon that the crossings were illegal, to witnessing the death of children without taking immediate action, the UK Home Office has made it painfully clear they want to prevent refugees stepping onto our soil. And millions more pounds are about to go toward supporting their aim.
Patel’s point remains. The crossings are dangerous and often facilitated by criminal gangs and people traffickers. However, the Home Office’s plan to end the crossings leave refugees abandoned in France.
Under France’s new Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanin, refugees face harsh treatment. Refugee camps have been dismantled, recently quite brutally in Paris. They have also recently tried to control immigration numbers by attempting to make the country less attractive to those hoping to find security in her borders.
France doesn’t want them. The United Kingdom doesn’t want them. So where are these traumatised, vulnerable refugees to go?
Charities, advocates, and human rights organisations are unanimously calling for the same thing: viable routes from France to the UK – safe ways that people can access to claim asylum. If a refugee doesn’t need to depend on a trafficker to get into the UK, dangerous boat journeys or jumping onto the top of a lorry wouldn’t be needed. We would protect the vulnerable and dry up the work for the criminal.
This process would cost too. There will be the price for transport, the price for accommodation, the price for an increased number of workers to process claims, the price for deportations of those that have had claims denied. And then there is the price of hosting successful asylum seekers in the UK. It wouldn’t be cheap.
But it would be money I would gladly have taken from my pay cheque, money that would go toward supporting men, women, and children who have endured war, famine, drought, racial discrimination, religious persecution. I’m prepared for finances to go towards helping them find security, safety, housing, and food.
Because it would be money giving human rights, instead of taking them away.
Lauren Crosby Medlicott is a freelance writer.