After 27 people died trying to reach Britain in an inflatable dinghy, charities said the Channel dividing Britain from France was sure to claim more migrants risking everything to flee war and poverty across the Middle East and Africa.
“Unless we see this as a catalyst for proper systemic change, this will keep happening again and it will get worse,” said Kay Marsh, who works for the migrant charity Samphire in Dover, Britain’s gateway to Europe. “The deterrents aren’t working.”
In the past decade, hundreds of thousands have slipped into the wealthy economies of Western Europe with the help of smugglers, fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty on epic journeys from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan and elsewhere. Few are welcomed.
France and Britain traded blame on Thursday after the worst recorded accident of its kind in the Channel. But only hours after the drownings, around 40 migrants made it to Dover, to be taken away on a red double-decker bus by British border forces.
Neither the peril of the crossing nor the $2,500 per person that charities say the smugglers charge appear to deter them.
Campaigners say Britain should therefore allow asylum claims to be made from outside the country.
“We need to be giving people the option to claim asylum before reaching British shores: a processing centre in northern France where people can make their claim to asylum without having to make the crossing, and people with a legitimate claim to asylum can be brought here safely,” Marsh said.
So far this year, 25,776 migrants are known to have crossed the Channel illegally, up from 8,461 in 2020 and 1,835 in 2019, according to tallies compiled by the BBC using interior ministry data.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council charity, said: “The government needs to look at providing what are called safe routes, safe ways that people who are in search of safety can get to the UK.”
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said this would only encourage more people to embark on dangerous journeys:
“We need to address illegal migration upstream – and before people reach the French coast.”
Photo – Remains of damaged migrants’ inflatable boat and a sleeping bag left by migrants on the beach near Wimereux, France, 25 November 2021. At least 27 migrants have died and two more were brought to the hospital after the boat they were trying to cross La Manche canal (English Channel) to Great Britain sank. EPA-EFE/MOHAMMED BADRA