Government ‘devoid of compassion and competence’ over Channel migrant crossings as number doubles

Number of immigrants crossing the English channel doubled year on year despite Priti Patelwish to make the road “unviable”, The Independent can reveal.

More than 3,000 men, women and children have made the journey in small craft since January, up from around 1,400 in the same period in 2020, despite ministers paying millions of pounds to step up security on along the French coast.

Charities say asylum seekers have no choice but to attempt dangerous boat trips due to a lack of legal alternatives and reduced air, truck and ferry traffic during the coronavirus.

Labor has accused the government of lacking both ‘compassion and competence’ as plans to return migrants to the ‘safe country from which they left’ are bogged down.

The Independent found that since January 1, when new rules came into force between the UK and the EU, no asylum seekers have been deported to EU countries they have passed through to get to the UK.

The government has repeatedly said it will negotiate bilateral deals to replace a Europe-wide mechanism the UK left during the Brexit process, but several EU countries have said they are not. had no intention of entering into such agreements.

Charities in Calais say the number of people crossing the Channel will not decrease unless migrants currently living in “unspeakable” conditions are provided with safe and legal alternatives.

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said The Independent“This dire situation exposes the reality behind the government’s rhetoric: a refusal to reopen safe routes or deliver on promises to help unaccompanied children stranded abroad. Criminal gangs continue to exploit desperate people.

“Now it looks like the government will fail even to reach the necessary agreements to move forward with its immigration plans. This Conservative government is devoid of compassion and lack of competence.

The Home Secretary promised to make Channel crossings ‘unviable’ in August, but her promise was followed by record numbers of arrivals, which continued.

On January 1, the United Kingdom abandoned the Dublin regulations, which allowed the transfer of asylum seekers to countries they had previously passed through and offered a legal route to reunite separated family members.

On the same day, controversial changes to immigration rules gave the Home Office greater leeway to declare asylum claims inadmissible from people who have transited through safe third countries.

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The government’s new immigration plan, unveiled last month, said: “Subject to obtaining return agreements, we will seek to return inadmissible asylum seekers quickly to the most recent safe country of embarkation.”

However, no return agreements have yet been reached with EU countries, and countries including France, Belgium, Germany and Sweden have indicated they will not join.

A spokesperson for the European Commission said the Brexit deal “does not include provisions on asylum and return”.

The body considers asylum to be within its remit and member states cannot engage in bilateral negotiations on anything beyond “practical administrative arrangements” without formal authorisation.

A spokesperson for the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security said: “We have not received a request from the UK to negotiate a bilateral return agreement. We prefer to conclude such agreements in a European context.”

A representative of the Swedish Minister for Migration said: “We do not have such an agreement, nor do we plan to conclude one”.

Sources at the Spanish Foreign Ministry said The Independent they had “no ongoing agreement” with Britain on the transfer of asylum seekers.

Greece’s migration ministry said some form of replacement for the Dublin regulation was “necessary”, but did not commit to bringing asylum seekers from the UK.

France, Belgium and Germany have previously stated at The Independent that they have no intention of concluding bilateral agreements with Great Britain.

The vast majority of Channel crossings are launched from France, where thousands of migrants still live in informal settlements on the north coast.

Clare Moseley, founder of charity Care4Calais, said conditions had become “unspeakable” amid relentless police raids and a ban on distributing food to migrants.

“They are constantly on the move, and often woken up violently in the early hours of the morning, which disrupts sleep and exhaustion is common,” she said. The Independent. “It’s completely understandable that they take great risks to escape.”

Ms Moseley said for those already in France, boat crossings are “one of the very few ways people can get to the UK to claim asylum”.

“For all intents and purposes, there is no legal way to travel, so the only choice is to risk your life in a small boat or hiding in a truck,” she added.

A report by the Foreign Affairs Committee warned in 2019 that focusing on closing borders “would lead migrants to take more dangerous routes and push them into the hands of criminal groups”.

“Without strong and accessible legal pathways to claim asylum in the UK, claimants have no choice but to make dangerous journeys by land and sea,” he added.

The number of asylum applications in the UK has fallen from 35,737 in 2019 to 29,456 in 2020, following a dramatic drop in arrivals by air during the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials believe that the increase in the use of small boats has been partly caused by the drop in cross-Channel truck traffic.

Chris Philp, the Minister for Immigration Compliance, insisted that the government’s immigration plans would “speed up the removal of failed asylum seekers”.

“All countries have a moral responsibility to tackle the problem of illegal migration,” he added. “We expect our international partners to engage with us on this, building on our current good cooperation, and continue to stress the importance of having effective return agreements to prevent people from perilous crossings.

“Individuals should seek asylum in the first safe country they reach – rather than making dangerous journeys to the UK.”