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Sunday, November 28, 2021

‘An avoidable tragedy’: UK’s tough immigration approach rebuked when 31 migrants drown while crossing the English Channel

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“The government has repeatedly prioritized cruel, impractical and dangerous border measures, such as channel setbacks, that will only lead to more deaths,” says JCWI’s Minnie Rahman.

November 24 the news broke that at least 31 people had drowned when trying to cross the English Channel in an inflatable boat. The ship capsized off the coast of Calais, prompting a major rescue mission.

The ‘deadliest’ canal disaster on record

The incident, in which five women and a girl were among the dead, is described as the “deadliest” disaster on record involving people crossing the canal.

In the wake of the tragedy, the spotlight turned to the government’s nationality and borders bill, with activists and charities blaming government policies for the tragic loss of life.

The concept of ‘walls and fences’ policy has been criticized, describing the trend of many countries towards securitized immigration policies and the ‘hardening’ of the border through the construction of fence walls.

In relation to the English Channel, although there are no “physical” borders, “walls and fences” are being used as a metaphor for the UK government’s tough immigration policies, namely its Nationality and Borders Bill. .

The bill was introduced in the House of Commons in July 2021. It makes changes to the UK immigration system, primarily by introducing a two-tier system for asylum seekers arriving in the UK. The bill is intended to make it a crime to knowingly enter the UK without permission.

The ministers say the Borders Law will break the business model for human smugglers through provisions that increase criminal convictions, penalties and border controls. These will also apply to anyone helping someone to seek asylum in the UK, regardless of whether their help is for financial gain or not.

Ministers say the bill will save lives, something that charities and activists oppose.

The UK’s absence of a safe and permissible route

Amnesty International is among those who oppose the border bill.

“Nothing in the bill creates or supports the creation of safe routes for people seeking asylum.

“Despite claims by ministers that it will save lives, the bill will again have the opposite effect. There is no doubt that most, if not all, trips to the UK by asylum seekers are unsafe, but criminalizing people for making these trips does not eliminate people’s need to seek asylum in the UK. In the absence of a safe and permissible route, a dangerous journey will remain all that is left.

“By not offering safe or safer alternatives for people still forced to travel, the government is not just perpetuating the same conditions that put people at risk. It is also making this worse and making people much more likely to die or suffer other serious harm. ” says Amnesty International.

Pitfalls of the ‘walls and fences’ policy

Asad Rehman, director of the anti-poverty charity War on Want, points out the pitfalls of the “walls and fences” policy.

“The policy of ‘walls and fences’ can be counted on the corpses in the Mediterranean and the English Channel, without crocodile tears from [government] – are responsible for these deaths “, Rehman tweeted.

Sentiment shared by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), which described the deaths as totally preventable.

Minne Rahman, JCWI Acting Executive Director, said LFF:

“What happened yesterday was a devastating but preventable tragedy.

“Since the pandemic, the very few safe routes that existed for asylum seekers have been closed, leaving people with no way to get to the UK safely. The government has repeatedly prioritized cruel, impractical and dangerous border measures, such as setbacks in the canal, that will only lead to more deaths. This tragedy must represent a turning point in which the priority is to save lives and not reject people; this means establishing safer routes immediately. “

The world’s busiest shipping route

The Strait of Dover is the the busiest sea route in the worldWith no 500-600 ships pass through the narrow straight between the UK and France every day. Data compiled by PA shows that more than 25,600 people have arrived in the UK in small boats this year, more than triple the number that arrived in 2020.

Just days before the tragic loss of 31 lives on Wednesday, the Refugee Council called on the government to reconsider its Nationality and Borders Bill.

Most migrants flee persecution

Research conducted by Refugee council It suggests that most of the migrants crossing the English Channel are refugees fleeing persecution. It indicates that around a third of the men, women and children who make the trip would not be able to stay in the UK and that “most of the people who cross the canal will likely be recognized as in need of protection” in the initial decision. stage.

In October Home Secretary Priti Patel claimed that 70% of those traveling to the UK via the English Channel “were not genuine asylum seekers” and that the government was “concentrating” its efforts on ” create a safe passage for genuine refugees. “

LFF He contacted the Interior Ministry for comment on the matter. We have not yet received a reply.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a freelance journalist and contributing editor for Left Foot Forward.

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