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Safe Passage International calls for new approach to Channel crossings and new safe routes for asylum seekers


New report makes case for 'competent and compassionate' alternative to current Government policies

Date of Publication:
13 October 2023

A report published last week by Safe Passage International calls for the UK to take a bold new approach to asylum seekers crossing the Channel via small boats.

Report coverYou can download the 34-page report here.

Safe Passage International said: "In this report, we put forward proposals which would address the immediate needs created by the crisis in the Channel and reckon with the longer-term need for safe passage that is set to grow. A compassionate and competent approach that would save lives, restore public confidence and renew Britain's international reputation."

The report proposes a three-pronged approach that would:

  • establish safe routes to the UK for those seeking asylum in order to ruin the trade of people smugglers;
  • renew the UK's commitment to international cooperation on refugee protection;
  • restore the right to seek asylum and rebuild the UK's asylum system.

Safe Passage International has been working in Northern France since 2015 and says it has have seen how smugglers and traffickers have responded to the lack of safe passage to the UK by monopolising routes to sanctuary for people seeking asylum.

The report calls for new safe routes to be opened and suggests they could be delivered through an Emergency Protection Scheme operating from within Europe and a pilot Refugee Visa from areas closer to countries of displacement.

Lord Alf Dubs emphasises in the report's foreword: "Safe routes are the best way to eradicate people smuggling and save lives. Refugees, including children and families, now have no other choice but to risk their lives to reach sanctuary in the UK, a situation which fuels the activities of people smugglers and traffickers. Unless we provide new safe routes and improve the existing ones, we will not stop the traffickers, indeed, we will only encourage them."

A new policy approach on Channel crossings must also incorporate rebuilding the asylum system, Safe Passage International adds in the report, and this includes repealing the Illegal Migration Act.

The report notes: "Recent UK policies all aim to deter refugees from travelling irregularly to the UK – but this wrong response yields the wrong results. Having to risk dangerous and irregular journeys to seek asylum is a common refugee experience – often an inevitable part of having to flee authorities who are meant to protect you and ask for refuge from countries whose border policies are designed to keep people out. International law recognises this, with the Refugee Convention stating that refugees must not be penalised for travelling irregularly. As a first and immediate step, the UK Government must re-commit itself to the letter and spirit of the relevant international laws to which it is a signatory by repealing and removing the legislative and policy framework that has removed these rights in the UK."

Safe Passage International explains that the proposals in its report are not intended as a detailed policy blueprint, but as a roadmap to outline the principles of a way forward and demonstrate how they could be achieved.

Lord Alf Dubs added: "I sincerely endorse this report and its bold call for a new compassionate and practical approach to Channel crossings. Instead of offering unworkable gimmicks, many of which contravene the UK's international humanitarian obligations, the Government must show leadership and a genuine willingness to cooperate with its partners in Europe and beyond."