Following the deaths of 27 people attempting to cross the English Channel, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, Enver Solomon, attacked the government’s approach to refugees. According to the Guardian, Solomon said:
How many tragedies like this must we see before the government fundamentally changes its approach by committing to an ambitious expansion of safe routes for those men, women and children in desperate need of protection?
Every day, people are forced to flee their homes through no fault of their own. Now is the time to end the cruel and ineffective tactic of seeking to punish or push away those who try and find safety in our country.
As people die politicians play the blame game
British and French leaders have reportedly begun to blame each other for this loss of life. Additionally, French interior minister Gerald Darmanin said the loss of 27 lives was an “absolute tragedy” as he blamed human trafficking gangs who promised people the “El Dorado of England” for a large fee.
Prime minister Boris Johnson called on France to agree to joint police patrols along the French Channel coast, while French politicians pointed the finger at UK authorities for failing to tackle the issue.
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However, while the British and French officials blamed each other and human trafficking gangs for this loss of human life, some people on social media are clear about where the blame lies:
— Higgins Cartoons (@higginscartoons) November 24, 2021
— Quidonneuncoup 🌈 🏳️⚧️ 🇪🇺 (@youknowit0609) November 24, 2021
Some refugees have arrived safely
However, other refugees forced into making the dangerous trip across the Channel are reported to have been brought safely ashore by the RNLI in Kent.
A group of people wearing life jackets and wrapped in blankets were seen huddled together on board an RNLI lifeboat before disembarking in Dover on Thursday morning.
A call for action
Responding to the deaths of these 27 people, the Refugee Council said:
We will honour those lost by ensuring we take action today, stand united and call for urgent and immediate change from the UK Government. No one should ever feel their only option for their future is to cross the world’s busiest shipping lane in a dinghy. 98% of those who cross the channel claim asylum. They are men, women and children who have made the heart breaking decision to leave everything they know behind to flee war, persecution and violence. They have experienced untold trauma both in their home countries and on route here to the UK.
And it calls on the UK government to:
- commit and deliver the expansion of existing safe routes including both resettlement and refugee family reunion. The government should commit to an annual resettlement target of at least 10,000 refugees and expand the existing family reunion rules to allow child refugees to be able to sponsor their parents and adult refugees to be able to sponsor their children under the age of 25 or their elderly parents to join them in the UK.
- establish a humanitarian visa system to allow people to apply for a visa to enter the UK for the purposes of claiming asylum, thereby reducing the need for people to make dangerous journeys across the Channel. People can only claim asylum in the UK when they are physically here, which is why they make desperate, often fatal journeys to reach the UK. It doesn’t have to be this way – humanitarian visas would enable people in need of protection to travel to the UK in a safe manner.
- Recognise that many people seeking asylum will have no other option other than making an irregular journey, as recognised in the 1951 Refugee Convention, and therefore they need to be treated fairly and humanely by being granted a fair hearing on UK soil. The Government need to put in place an efficient and effective asylum decision making system with timely decisions that are of high quality so people do not have to wait for months or years for an outcome on their case
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