Record number of migrants cross the Channel in a single day
The Home Office have confirmed that 823 migrants crossed the English Channel on Saturday, breaking the record for the most migrants to have crossed the Channel in a single day.
The Home Office intercepted 30 boats carrying migrants and also said that French authorities prevented a further 193 people from crossing the Channel in another 10 boats.
Nearly 12,500 have made the dangerous journey so far this year, the previous record of crossings in a single day was 592 people on the 12th August.
Is crossing the Channel illegal?
Government officials and media reports have continued to label migrant Channel crossings as illegal, however it is not illegal to enter the UK in order to claim asylum. The Refugee Convention, of which the UK is a signatory of, recognizes that due to the nature of their situation asylum seekers may need to use irregular means to enter a country that they wish to seek safety in.
The Home Office does not routinely publish breakdowns of asylum claims by method of arrival, however there is official evidence on how many of the Channel migrants claimed asylum in 2020 up to September. In September the Director General of UKVI told the Hoe Affairs committee that of the 5,000 people who had made it to the UK in 2020 to that date, 98% had claimed asylum.
Therefore, whilst a minority of migrants who cross the Channel are doing to illegally, the vast majority that claim asylum are breaking no laws.
Safe and legal routes
Officials claim that there are safe and legal routes that can be used to prevent migrants from making the incredibly dangerous journey across the Channel, but there are just 4 resettlement schemes operating in the UK, they include the:
• Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) – for refugees fleeing Syrian conflict
• Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS) – for vulnerable children in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey
• Gateway Protection Programme (GPP) – for vulnerable people living in refugee camps
• Mandate Refugee Scheme (MRS) – for refugees who have close family members already living in the UK
The above routes are very limited and there are thousands of vulnerable refugees who do not meet the requirements. Instead, many are left to live in refugee camps or in poverty in neighboring countries for years and the only option of safe accommodation, living conditions and hopeful futures is to make the dangerous Channel crossing.
The Nationality and Borders Bill
The Home Secretary has promised an overhaul of the asylum system that will prevent Channel crossings. As part of this, MP’s are currently considering the Nationality and Borders Bill that could mean migrants who enter the UK without permission could face up to 4 years in prison.
However, the new Bill has already come under intense scrutiny from charities and human rights activists who are instead urging the Home Office to create more safe and legal routes for asylum seekers desperate to find safety in the UK.
“The Government has framed the new proposals as being a key way to stop smuggling gangs from operating across Europe. Yet, no one has been able to explain how reducing the rights of people claiming asylum in the UK will do that… It is both harsh and unrealistic to suggest that a refugee who arrives irregularly (e.g. without a valid visa) should be accorded fewer rights. Anyone can recognise that people fleeing danger and dictatorship will not be in a position to apply for permission to travel to the UK and they will not be deterred from making that journey. Not only would that be a denial of our basic human obligations, it would signal to other countries that they can do the same, undermining the very concept of asylum.”
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