Refugee charities say Priti Patel’s plan for Rwanda does not deter Channel crossings

REFUGEE charities say the government’s plan to send migrants to Rwanda has done little to deter people from making the perilous journey to the UK, as Channel crossings have resumed this weekend.

Some 254 people were detected in small boats crossing France on Sunday after an 11-day break in such trips.

More people thought to be migrants were taken to Dover on the bank holiday on Monday, including children, with the BBC reporting that more than 100 migrants were brought ashore by the afternoon.

Official Monday crossing figures from the Ministry of Defense (MoD) are not expected until Tuesday.

Confirmation of Sunday’s figures from the Ministry of Defense came after what would have been an 11-day break in activity around the English Channel from April 20-30, when no crossings were recorded amid reports reporting strong winds and rough seas.

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The Ministry of Defense took control of migrant operations in April, when the government also announced controversial plans to send some of those making the cross-Channel journey to Rwanda.

The Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill – dubbed the Anti-Refugee Bill by campaigners because it makes it a criminal offense to knowingly arrive in the UK illegally and includes the power to deal with asylum seekers abroad – became law on Thursday.

But refugee organizations said the bill ‘does nothing to address why people come’, with one charity saying the majority of migrants it spoke to said the plan would only stop them no crossing to the UK.

The Rwanda deal will see the East African nation receive asylum seekers deemed ineligible by the UK who have arrived “illegally” under new immigration rules.

Care4Calais said of 64 people surveyed, 87% had heard of the plan and 75% said “it will not deter them from crossing to the UK”.

In a message on Twitter, the organization said: “They have no choice: they fled danger and made long and dangerous journeys, and France ‘does not give you security’, as the one of them said.

The charity called the Rwanda deal – which Home Secretary Priti Patel called a “world’s first” deal – as “just another in a long line of deterrence policies announced by this government over the past few years.

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Care4Calais said: “Refugees have escaped the worst horrors of this world. When you risk your life, what else do you have to lose? When someone explains that “even death wouldn’t stop me” from trying to reach the UK, it’s clear that even the threat of Rwanda won’t change anything.

Such sentiments were echoed by Pierre-Henri Dumont, deputy for Calais in the French National Assembly.

He told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One: “When you leave your country because of floods, because of famine, because you are not afraid of being transported and sent back to a other country, at least if you have a chance you will try.”

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the resumption of crossings over the weekend showed that “the draconian policies enshrined in the Nationality and Borders Bill and their (government’s) agreement on Rwanda don’t do much to deter desperate people from jumping on boats because they do nothing to address why people come”.

He called on the UK to have a “mature conversation with France and the EU about responsibility sharing”.

He said: “We need a fair and humane asylum system, with well-thought-out means and long-term solutions that address the reasons why people are forced to leave their homes and provide them with safe routes. to the UK.”

Sunday’s figures mean that at least 6,947 people have reached the UK since the start of the year after sailing busy shipping lanes from France in small boats, according to data compiled by the agency release PA.

This is more than three times the amount recorded at this time last year (2004) and more than six times the figure for the same period in 2020 (1006).

Typically, there can be periods of days or weeks without migrant crossings, often depending on weather conditions.

Two longer intervals of 16 and 13 days without passage were recorded earlier this year, before the announcement of the agreement with Rwanda.

The longest period without any crossings so far in 2022 was 16 days, between January 27 and February 11, according to the Palestinian Authority’s analysis of government figures.

Labor leader Keir Starmer said there was a need for “a co-ordinated international criminal response” to tackle the “criminal gangs” he says are at the root of the migrant crisis.

Speaking on the campaign trail in Worthing, West Sussex, he said: ‘I know what can be done if you have teams working together across Europe along these roads, taking absolutely attacking these criminal gangs and working very closely with the French authorities as well.

Solomon reminded people that those “crossing the Channel are fleeing atrocities like those in Ukraine and Afghanistan.”

Care4Calais said there was no longer a backlog of Ukrainians in Calais “because they can apply for visas from anywhere”.

Renewing their call for the option of visa applications for all refugees, the association added: “The answer to many problems in Calais is to let refugees apply for visas to cross the Channel safely, because now – unless you are Ukrainian – there is no safe way for a refugee to get to the UK and claim asylum, it would bankrupt the smugglers and save lives.