British Home Secretary Priti Patel has given the Home Office 72 hours to come up with an emergency plan to tackle the migrant crisis in the Channel as the number of people seeking a safe haven in the UK continues to rise.
Almost 1,000 people have crossed the 22-mile waterway between France and Britain already this year, more than twice the number in the whole of 2018. Patel says more must be sent back to keep numbers from swelling further.
General Secretary of the Immigration Services Union Lucy Moreton has said that returning them more quickly would be a “deterrent”.
Refugees are at risk of being forcibly returned despite dangers in their home countries.
Yesterday 32 people, including two children, from Iraq and Iran were handed to immigration officials after attempting the crossing. Iran and Iraq were two of the top three nationalities seeking asylum in the UK last year.
The Channel is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and the most dangerous crossing due to the strong currents and cold water.
Yesterday, the body of an Iraqi migrant was found washed up at a wind farm off the Belgian coast of Zeebrugge wearing a makeshift lifejacket fashioned from empty plastic bottles and one flipper. It is thought that he attempted to swim from France to Britain.
Last Friday Prime Minister Boris Johnson told migrants attempting the crossing that they would be sent back and was criticised by campaigners, lawyers and politicians for making “misleading” and “inflammatory” comments.
In December Sajid Javid, who preceded Patel, said the rising numbers crossing the Channel was a “major incident”.
Patel is set to meet French Interior Minister Christopher Castaner in Paris tomorrow to discuss cross border collaboration on migrants crossing the Channel.
Head of Advocacy at the Refugee Council Andy Hewett has called on Patel to ensure future agreements take into account the “dire living conditions” of migrants and to “put the dignity of people seeking protection at the heart of their plans.”
The absence of safe and legal routes to enter the UK puts them in the hands of people smugglers, added Hewett.
However, fears remain among campaigners that Patel’s vision will result in more fences, barbed wire and policing.
In July Patel vowed to push through Johnson’s “radical rewrite of our immigration system” to keep terrorists out of the UK.
Patel vowed to prioritise immigrants who add “significant value” to the UK “based on what people can offer rather than on where they come from.”