Banning Channel migrants from claiming asylum flouts our legal and moral obligations
The Home Secretary has announced that she intends to ban anyone who enters the United Kingdom, without prior authorisation, from claiming refuge here. This is intended to deal with the problem of Channel crossings.
However, we should keep in mind that over two-thirds arriving through Channel crossings have a valid claim under our laws for asylum in our country. To refuse to consider asylum applications would be flouting our legal and moral obligations. People have a right to claim asylum, and countries have a right to refuse that claim if they believe it to be illegitimate.
Although more than 33,500 people have come to the UK this year on small boats, this seems to stem from increased security on the less visible routes. It is also the case that compared to other European neighbours, the UK is not a particularly popular destination.
With no safe and legal route available, it's hard to imagine a British or ECHR judge finding this policy legal, moral, or reasonable
It is not illegal to cross the Channel in a boat, and those crossing the Channel in small boats to seek refuge here do so because there is no way to claim asylum in this country without being physically present in the UK.
With no safe and legal route available, it's hard to imagine a British or ECHR judge finding this policy legal, moral, or reasonable.
I personally believe that the only way to solve the issues of Channel crossings is to agree a new deal with France. The French and UK governments are already working closely on immigration and asylum issues. The UK’s partnership with France in 2022 has resulted in over 13,500 crossing attempts from France being stopped — 60 per cent more than this stage last year and joint security operations have also led to the dismantling of 21 organised crime groups involved in trafficking.
So, what could this wider agreement look like?
Firstly, there is the issue of deportations. Home Office figures show that the number of category A foreign criminals and highest harm immigration offenders deported in the last year dropped 13 per cent to 956. That is the lowest it has been since the Home Office began compiling figures in 2013. Official figures show that at the end of March there were 11,300 foreign national offenders who had been released but not deported. Furthermore, the number of refused asylum seekers subject to removal action has been growing since 2014 and consisted of 39,500 people as of June 2021. Under this agreement France would accept the return of illegal migrants and failed asylum seekers who make it across the Channel.
Secondly, and in return for France taking back illegal migrants and failed asylum seekers, the UK should open up safe and legal routes, whereby genuine refugees can apply for asylum in the UK. This could be done by a series of centres in France/EU countries or could be done digitally or perhaps another way, but there must be legal routes available so that refugees are not forced to undertake dangerous journeys in order to apply for asylum in the UK.
The advantage of processing centres, located away from Calais, will mean that there will be no need for asylum seekers to travel to Calais, making it easier for France to stop the boats from taking off and halting Channel crossings. It will also stop the spectacle of significant numbers of asylum seekers camping in Calais and other hotspots across the EU, which is something the French government and the EU are keen to stop.
This policy will also lead to significant savings of millions of pounds the Home Office spends on hotels for asylum seekers and will mean that huge accommodation centres will not be needed. Instead, refugees will be able to support themselves with jobs and be able to integrate into their local communities.
The political will to solve this issue exists on both sides of the Channel and incentives for both countries means that a lot is at stake. We must solve the crossings in the Channel, but we must do so in a way that is fair, humane and that works for the citizens of this country.
David Simmonds, Conservative MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner and co-chair of the APPG on Migration.
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