Yesterday’s news that 27 men, women and children died in the English Channel was both tragic but entirely foreseeable. The UK government knew that these crossings were dangerous, but has continued to take no action to ensure that those seeking to reach the UK can do so safely and without the aid of people smugglers. In the absence of safe routes to the UK, desperate people – fleeing persecution, war and poverty – are left with no choice but to take drastic and indeed dangerous measures.
The UK government’s response to an increase in channel crossings this year has been to dial up the rhetoric. Priti Patel has made it her mission to stop the boats and reduce so-called pull factors. This shows a striking lack of understanding both of the reasons people flee their home countries and their wishes for coming to the UK.
Just one month ago, Patel argued that asylums seekers wanted to come to the UK because they were housed in hotels whilst their claims were processed. This looked foolish at the time, but as 27 lives have been lost, now looks grotesque. Tellingly, the Home Office remain unable to produce any evidence that supports their position that so-called “pull factors” incentivize asylum seekers to come to the UK.
Patel’s response to yesterday’s tragedy has been equally disappointing. Whilst of course paying lip service to how awful it was, there was no hint of contrition on her part or of the government more broadly. Of greater concern, there was also no suggestion that the government will review its policies and create safe passages for asylum seekers to arrive in the UK. As the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill meanders through parliament, the reality is that smugglers will instead be further emboldened and the situation will become worse for the small number of people who want to seek asylum in the UK.
The government continues to look at ever more expensive options in its efforts to stop the boats, none of which are likely to be successful despite coming at huge tax-payer expense. Instead of paying France to prevent Channel crossings or proposing to offshore asylum processing centres ever further afield, the government should instead re-evaluate why people face no choice but to attempt to reach the UK by dinghy.
Three simple solutions are:
RAMFEL therefore calls on the Home Secretary to resign if she is unwilling to take action to prevent the English Channel becoming a graveyard for those seeking sanctuary in the UK.