During the Christmas period, 40 individuals in northern France attempted to cross the Channel by boat, prompting Home Secretary Sajid Javid to label the incidents as a crisis. The number of migrants who have attempted to cross the channel into England since the start of November is estimated at 239. Sajid Javid has issued increased patrols of the Channel and has called on the Navy to send Border Force cutters to patrol the area, in hopes of deterring more migrants from taking up the dangerous journey. Many question Javid’s motives and suspect that the “crisis” is more of a political move.
In a statement to Sky News while visiting Dover, Sajid Javid said, “A question has to be asked: if you are a genuine asylum-seeker, why have you not sought asylum in the first safe country that you arrived in?” His statement caused major controversy – many suggested he is not qualified to presume the nature of the migrants. According to the BBC, the Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesman, Ed Davey, said, “The home secretary’s comments show that the Tories’ nasty, hostile environment is alive and well.” According to the Telegraph, David Wood – a former director-general of immigration enforcement – believes Javid is “politicizing the migrant crisis.” Others, like Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes, believe Javid’s plans are needed to deal with the dangerous situation.
The current migration situation is serious but the home secretary needlessly politicized the situation, leaving his safari holiday early to declare it a crisis in an obvious publicity stunt. According to The Guardian, “7,444 people claimed asylum in the third quarter of this year, of whom people crossing the Channel made up a very small percentage. Far larger numbers arrive by plane seeking asylum from countries like Uganda and the D.R.C. but get little media coverage.” The problem arises in France where migrants claim there is no hope for a good life. In a statement to The Guardian, Maya Konforti of l’Auberge des Migrants said, “There are no facilities, no shops, no nothing … The police dismantle whatever people manage to put up, every other day. It’s psychological harassment, unbelievably stressful. They can’t ever settle, they struggle to keep what little they have … So yes, you can say they are desperate.”
The migrants are not disingenuous, just mistreated. Refugee camp clearances play a large role in causing the migrant channel incidents to spike. According to The Guardian, “data reveals that the French authorities carried out 78 separate camp clearances in October and 77 in September, a figure that has steadily increased over the year and is seven times higher than the number of Calais evictions being reported during the summer.” These brutal evictions are an obvious factor in migrants attempting to reach England. Every migrant has the right to apply for asylum, whether these applications are granted or denied is up to the government. The pathways and processes for asylum-seekers need to remain clear and accessible. Instead of questioning their motives for coming to England, we should bring to light their reasons for leaving France.
The “crisis” situation began on November 3rd, when, according to the BBC, eight migrants were intercepted off the coast of Kent and seven others by the Dover Western Docks. More are determined to brave the freezing waters to follow others on this path to asylum in England. There are some thoughts that Brexit could be to blame, as migrants and people smugglers predict that the U.K. borders will become harsher. According to CNN, International Organization for Migration spokesman Leonard Doyle said, “If people think the borders are going to change, [the smugglers] could be telling people that as a way of getting them to prop up the money, which could create a belief that this is the last chance to get through.” This sounds very plausible: as mentioned in The Guardian, these trips are very pricey, with some migrants spending thousands of dollars on dangerous and uncertain attempts to enter the country. The United Kingdom and France are stepping up their channel patrols with those found in French waters being returned to France.
The situation in the channel is of grave importance for peace and stability. We must always maintain the rights of those fleeing their homelands for a safer and better life. If nothing else, we must look into how these migrants are being treated in France and call for better policies.