The evolution of border security in and around the English Channel has been branded a “history of death” that has seen nearly 300 people lose their lives.
Under successive French and UK governments, responses to the refugee crisis have become increasingly militarised, forcing people to resort to more dangerous routes, a new report claims.
Calais has been turned into a “murderous border zone”, while the Home Office response to small boats crossings has grown to “monstrous proportions”, it argues.
The report – believed to be the first of its kind in English – documents nearly 300 border-related deaths in and around the English Channel since 1999.
Its publication comes as more people were brought to Dover on Thursday.
Mael Galisson, from Gisti, a legal service for asylum seekers in France, wrote the original report in French which has now been translated and updated.
He said: “Crossing strategies evolve according to the level of securitisation of the border.
“The more a crossing point is securitised, and thus inaccessible, the higher the risks and the need for border-crossers to have recourse to a ‘third party”, a smuggler.”
He gave the example of the Eurotunnel, where he says the death toll rose after access to the motorway was made more difficult, and to more recent trends during the pandemic.
“In 2020, the dramatic drop in lorry and air traffic because of Covid-19 has led to a corresponding increase in attempted sea crossings in small boats, organised by commercial smugglers who charge up to £3,000 for the passage and then force passengers to steer the boats,” he said.
“Dozens of those forced to pilot boats have been arrested as people smugglers, and 10 people have died in 2020 trying to cross the Channel in small boats – or even by swimming.”
Frances Webber, vice-chair of the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), said: “These deaths are not ‘natural’ nor ‘tragic accidents’ but man-made, created by policies which do not merely close borders but also erect ever more obstacles to safe travel for the most vulnerable.
“Military-style solutions don’t solve humanitarian problems.
“The history of the securitisation of the English Channel is a history of death.
“So why do we allow the Government to keep on along the same path?”
The report, a collaboration between the IRR, the Permanent People’s Tribunal London steering group and Gisti, is entitled Deadly Crossings And The Militarisation Of Britain’s Borders.
Fatalities in 2020 have included the deaths of a Kurdish-Iranian family when their migrant boat sank last month.
On the Kent coast on Thursday, more people were seen arriving in the UK after crossing the Channel.
Wrapped in blankets against the November chill, several people were seen being helped to disembark from a Border Force patrol boat.
While deteriorating conditions in the latter part of 2020 have seen a drop in crossing attempts, several hundred people have successfully made the journey this month.
Numbers of people making the dangerous crossing aboard small boats have rocketed this year, with more than 8,000 reaching the UK, according to data analysis by the PA news agency.
The full report can be read at www.irr.org.uk/article/deadly-crossings.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?