Activists ask UK government to ensure safety for migrants crossing English Channel

According to reports, 8,400 migrants risked their lives crossing the English Channel to reach the UK in 2020, four times the number recorded in 2019

January 06, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Migrant Crisis-English Channel

Migrant rights groups in the UK have demanded that the Tory government ensure safe passage for migrants coming into the country through the precarious English Channel route. Groups including Refugee Action and Detention Action put forth this demand after an alarming rise in the number of migrants attempting to reach the UK in unseaworthy vessels.

According to a Morning Star report, around 8,400 people risked their lives crossing the English Channel in 2020, four times the number recorded in 2019. The Institute of Race Relations reported that in the past 20 years, nearly 300 vulnerable asylum-seekers, including 36 children, have died attempting the crossing.

Migrant rights groups also protested the recent steps by the British government to restrict people from seeking asylum in the UK. Last month, the government made certain changes in immigration rules, restricting asylum in the UK for refugees who have passed through a “safe” third country. Earlier, British home secretary Priti Patel and her French counterpart Gérald Darmanin signed a new agreement to increase police patrols in the English Channel to curb the crossing of small boats carrying migrants to the UK.

According to Stephen Hale from Refugee Action, “the men, women and children clinging to dinghies in the Channel are desperate to find safety. After fleeing war and persecution, they yet again put their lives on the line because there are so few safe and legal routes to seek refuge in the UK.”

Bella Sankey from Detention Action accused the British home secretary of lacking sensitivity and understanding towards the migrants’ problems. She claimed that the  secretary was wasting a huge amount of British taxpayers money and putting the migrants’ lives at risk. The Scottish National Party’s justice and home affairs spokeswoman, MP Joanna Cherry, appealed to the Tory government to “introduce safe and legal routes for those seeking asylum” in the new year to avoid more deaths.

In his article in the Morning Star, MP Jeremy Corbyn, citing the alarming rise of migrant traffic in the English Channel, said, “we have a duty to speak up for refugees and propose international co-operation to develop humane solutions to the global refugee crisis.”

Last year, a far-right group in the UK called Britain First had launched an anti-migrant patrol, ‘Operation White Cliffs’, to prevent migrants coming through the English Channel from landing on British shores. Progressive sections in the UK, including the group Stand Up to Racism, had strongly protested such far-right vigilantism against migrants.

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