19 August 2020
Civil society organisations, Windrush survivors, religious organisations and others are calling on the UK government to provide safe and legal routes to access the country as a way to halt the ongoing crossings of the Channel by people travelling in small boats. The death of 16-year-old boy, who drowned after trying to reach the UK, underscores the importance of the letter.
The letter is available here (JCWI, link). It points out: "The small number of people seeking entry to the UK in this way are doing so because there are simply no safe and legal routes of entry to the UK."
The signatories warn (emphasis added):
"Whilst search and rescue operations are essential to prevent further loss of life, deployment of the Navy in the Channel is not a permanent or reasonable solution and will only push people further into the hands of people traffickers. We deplore any suggestion that the Navy should breach international refugee or maritime law by ‘pushing back’ boats seeking to reach safety on our shores."
It also highlights the fact that last year, Priti Patel, the MP who is currently Home Secretary, was a member of parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee when it argued in a report that: "a policy that focuses exclusively on closing borders will drive migrants to take more dangerous routes, and push them into the hands of criminal groups."
Furthermore, says the letter:
"We note that this pattern of ignoring expert advice, failing to engage with civil society and branding migrants as “criminal” is the same set of conditions which led to the Windrush scandal. A key recommendation from the Windrush Lessons Learned Review urged government to implement policies based on evidence and transparent decision-making."
As if to provide a grim demonstration of the points made in the letter, today it has been reported that the body of a 16-year-old boy washed up on a beach in France, after he drowned trying to reach the UK.
Meanwhile it has transpired that the UK's 'Border Force' will be given responsibility for caring for unaccompanied child refugees, as Kent County Council's accommodation reached its limits.
They will be held by Border Force until another local authority is able to take care of them. The situation has been heavily criticised by refugee rights advocates, who have criticised the government's failure to ensure appropriate accommodation and care is made available.
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