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Thursday 25 November 2021

Channel deaths: We need safe routes now

Six ways to create safe routes and save lives
We want to express our deep sorrow at the recent deaths of those trying to cross the Channel to claim asylum in the UK. From our solidarity work with Syrians we well understand what catastrophes they were fleeing from, and the additional anxiety and horror to their families of this new catastrophe.

We are sickened by official responses: the expressions of shock, as if this tragedy were not an inevitable consequence of government policies; the British and French blaming each other; both Government and Opposition blaming the smugglers who only exist because of the absence of safe routes to asylum.

We are sickened especially by Priti Patel’s lies about people crossing the Channel, describing them as ‘economic migrants,’ saying they are ‘elbowing out the women and children,’ even though the Refugee Council has shown from Home Office figures that 91% of channel crossers since January 2020 have been from ten nationalities with a strong likelihood of being granted asylum.

Most are fleeing from authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and Africa, tolerated if not supported by Western governments. The proposed solution of another Immigration and Nationality bill, which threatens to undermine the right to asylum and breach international law, will be ineffectual against such ‘push factors’ and will serve only to promote a climate of hysteria and populist authoritarianism in our own countries.

What we ask for instead is an acceptance of current realities and the creation of safe routes to claim asylum in Europe and in the UK, such as:
  • The establishment of a UK consulate in northern France to accept and process asylum claims, with particular categories (those with family or other connections with the UK) given priority;
  • The resumption of resettlement schemes from countries neighbouring the zones of conflict, under the auspices of the UN;
  • A workable policy of refugee family reunion;
  • Restoration of the ‘Dubs’ scheme to accept our share of unaccompanied minors in Europe;
  • A process for urgently processing claims from persons at particular risk, such as military or interpreters who have worked for British occupation forces abroad, or NGOs funded by us;
  • The allocation of sufficient resources for a humane and speedy asylum process.
It’s the least we can do.

Syria Solidarity UK