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Rights group calls for British and French governments to fully respect the rights of asylum seekers as 2019 sees large increase in Channel crossings


Numbers arriving in Britain in small boats rose more than sixfold last year

Date of Publication:
09 January 2020

Rights group calls for British and French governments to fully respect the rights of asylum seekers as 2019 sees large increase in Channel crossings

09 January 2020

The Geneva-based Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said on Saturday that the British and French governments should undertake more effective measures to ensure full respect for the rights of asylum seekers and refugees in order to reduce the numbers of people attempting dangerous crossings of the English Channel.

MapLast year saw a large increase in the number of asylum seekers making the crossing.

The New York Times reported that the numbers arriving in Britain in small boats in 2019 rose more than sixfold over 2018. According to BBC News, at least 1,892 migrants successfully crossed the Channel last year.

The Guardian reported last week that the number of failed crossing attempts from France had quadrupled over the last year, with French officials saying 2,358 people were picked up in the Channel, compared with 586 in 2018.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported last Thursday that rights groups have linked the increasing number of crossings to a police crackdown to prevent the establishment of migrant camps in Calais and other areas on the French coast.

Maddy Allen, who works in northern France for Help Refugees, told the Guardian last month: "The situation has continued to deteriorate. It really is the worst it has ever been. The crossings are taking place alongside large-scale evictions. It's beyond inhumane, we are calling them makeshift camps, but in reality it's no shelter."

The Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said: "What forces people to take such risk is a combination of French government crackdown on refugees, particularly on migrant camps in Calais and Dunkirk, in addition to joint French-British efforts to curb smuggling by trucks and shipping containers, and profound fear that Brexit would soon mean a closure of British borders. This puts significant pressure on asylum seekers to rush and undertake such dangerous trips before it's too late."

The group added that the UK must introduce clear and dignifying mechanisms for refugees to request asylum more safely instead of imposing greater restrictions that only force people to take more dangerous routes to find their way to the UK.

Lisa Doyle of the Refugee Council told the New York Times: "The fact that people who have already faced unimaginable hardship in their homes — war, conflict, persecution, violence — are boarding flimsy boats to cross one of the world's most dangerous shipping lanes in winter is an incredibly clear expression of their utter desperation and hopelessness."

The Daily Telegraph reported that Home Secretary Priti Patel wants to remove the incentive for economic migrants to attempt the crossing by making it clear that anyone arriving in the UK illegally without genuine claims for asylum will be promptly returned.

A Home Office spokesman told Daily Telegraph: "Individuals who reach the UK illegally should be in no doubt about our determination to return them to Europe as it is an established principle that those in need of protection should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach."

Bridget Chapman of Kent Refugee Action Network told the Guardian in December: "People who arrive on boats, in our experience, have got extremely good asylum claims. They want to make themselves known to authorities at the earliest possible opportunity so they can make their claim."