Monday, January 24

The English Channel: at risk of becoming a cemetery for migrants

London Correspondent



Two years ago, the British Home Secretary, Priti Patel, He promised that the arrival of immigrants from France to the United Kingdom via the English Channel would become a “rare phenomenon”. According to the minister, that would happen in the spring of 2020, but far from being the case, the situation began to worsen at that time. The crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the closure of borders made the option of crossing by sea the only option for many immigrants who at other times would have risked arriving by land. In August 2020, Patel promised to make the route, in his own words, “unviable.”

The numbers, without

However, they make the words of the head of the Interior fall on deaf ears, since the balance of 2021 is that, according to official data, about 25,700 people crossed the Canal so far, a few days after the end of the year, three times more than in all of 2020. Faced with the inability to sneak into trucks, many decide to pay the thousands of euros that the traffickers ask them to make a space for them in tiny inflatable boats that do not resist the sea conditions in the Canal, with strong winds, impossible currents and freezing temperatures. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, however, raises the figure to some 31,000 people who have attempted the dangerous crossing between France and the United Kingdom, between which there are only 35 kilometers of separation, and according to the French authorities, 7,800 people have been rescued at sea.

The problem for the government of Boris Johnson is important: despite the fact that the country currently has a negative net migration, that is, more people leave the country than arrive, immigration control was one of the great promises of Brexit, and now it cannot afford to fail its citizens in that area, especially when the prime minister grows dwarfs, with other critical fronts open in a difficult stage of his mandate. Already, Spain, Greece, France and Germany grant many more asylum applications than the United Kingdom, but the divorce from the European Union supposedly gave the Executive the possibility of controlling its borders without depending on what the government did. community group and take charge of their immigration policy. But the situation couldn’t be more complex. This is impossible to do without close international collaboration, especially with France, a neighbor with whom relations are not going through their best moment but with whom it is essential to work together to address the situation.

The lack of bilateral agreements and having ceased to be under the umbrella of the EU, far from giving it that desired autonomy, has further complicated the management of the crisis, and the British unilateral measures, such as the fact of not being willing to grant asylum to anyone who has previously passed through a safe country, they are the cause of criticism inside and outside its borders. Organizations that work with immigrants, one of them the Refugee Council, which provides support and advice to refugees and asylum seekers, consider that the majority of people who cross the Canal do indeed come from countries mired in conflict. armed groups or where human rights may be severely restricted, such as Syria, Eritrea or Sudan, which make them eligible to be granted this protection, regardless of the country where they decide to apply for it.

According to the UN International Organization for Migration, since 2014, at least 166 migrants have been registered dead or missing in the English Channel, a figure that non-governmental organizations consider well below the real one, but there are no official data. In any case, they are well below the 22,930 that have been registered dead or missing in the Mediterranean. What is clear is that both seas are graveyards of people. But for those fleeing deplorable living conditions, the risk of dying along the way is worth it and, according to a representative of the Care4Calais organization, “they are so determined to have a better life that nothing will stop them.”

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