Wednesday, September 22, 2021

As refugees cross channel in small boats, UK seeks to criminalize irregular migration

LONDON – The British government is trying to prevent asylum seekers from crossing the English Channel by criminalizing irregular migration, as large numbers of migrants continue to cross the seas from France to Britain in small boats.

Migrants come from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. Most are fleeing conflict or poverty.

At its narrowest point, the English Channel is 30 kilometers wide. Expatriates typically travel in overloaded inflatable dinghies across the world’s busiest shipping lanes. British and French intelligence services say the crossings are coordinated by a network of smugglers, who charge around $3,000 per person.

French police patrol the beach to stop the migrants, but say the beach is too spacious to block all departures. Once inside British waters, migrants must be taken ashore under international law.

A man crossing over from France is treated as an expatriate after disembarking from a British Border Force vessel in Dover, south east England, on July 22, 2021.

Last month, 430 people crossed in a single day. The total for 2021 so far is around 8,500, according to data from PA Media, formerly the Press Association, which collated government figures. This number is higher than the whole of 2020, when 8,461 people crossed the sea.

Speaking in Parliament last month, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the government would take action to stop the migration.

“We are seeing right now that effectively people traffickers, smugglers, criminal gangs are exploiting our asylum system to bring in economic migrants and people who, quite frankly, are bypassing our legal migration routes, are coming into our country illegally,” she told lawmakers at last. Month.

“This is an evolving situation. The number of migrants attempting these crossings from France has increased significantly,” she said.

However, critics say the number of migrants arriving is by no means unusual. Bridget Chapman is from the Kent Refuge Action Network, which supports migrants across the Channel. “While there is a sense of an increase in the number crossing the channel, in reality the total number is down, it just changed the way,” Chapman told VOA. “The UK government spent millions in strengthening the port around Calais (in France). It has become more difficult for people to reach by lorry, so people have turned to small boats. But the fact remains that no matter how small you are Cross the Channel by boat, or get stuck in an airtight refrigerated lorry, or cling to the axle of the HGV, it’s a dangerous crossing and the method of arrival doesn’t really matter.

“What matters is that people have the right to claim asylum in a country of their choice, a relatively small number of people want to come to the UK, and we need to find a better way to manage this situation so that no one has access to it.” Do not feel that they have no choice but to risk their lives. Ways to do this should include increasing the number accepted through resettlement routes and the option of humanitarian visas, which means asylum seekers People can cross Chanel in a regular and safe fashion,” Chapman said.

The spike in arrivals has embroiled Britain’s revered marine rescue charity, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), in controversy. Critics accused the charity of providing a “taxi service” to Britain. The RNLI has defended its actions.

“When our lifeboats launch, we operate under international maritime law, which states that we are allowed, and in fact obliged, to enter all waters regardless of regions for search and rescue purposes. And when it comes to rescuing those who are trying to cross the channel, we don’t question why they got into trouble, who they are or where they come from. Chief Executive Officer of RNLI “All we need to know is that they need our help,” Mark Dovey said in a statement last month.

A group of people believed to be migrants from France aboard a local lifeboat in Dungeness, southern England, on July 20, 2021.

The government argues that migrants should first seek refuge in the safe country in which they come, rather than travel to the UK. Its proposed law would give up to four years in prison for migrants entering the UK without permission.

Bridget Chapman of the Kent Refugee Action Network said retaliation will not deter migrants.

“It flies in the face of international law, you know. The Geneva Convention states that people have the right to seek asylum, and that can be in a country of their choice. It sounds very intentionally punitive. It’s like a saber rattle. Looks like it’s a very hard thing to do to make people feel that the UK is not a welcoming place. The fact that it won’t stop people from coming,” she told VOA.

A committee of British parliamentarians last week condemned the living conditions of newly arrived migrants in the port of Dover. During a visit to a migrant reception centre, women with infants and very young children were seen sleeping on thin mattresses on the floor.

Meanwhile, Britain has given France $75 million to strengthen policing of the northern French coastline to try to stop migrants, on top of the $39 million given last year.

France has called on the European Union to conduct reconnaissance flights over the English Channel.

As refugees cross channel in small boats, UK seeks to criminalize irregular migration
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