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UK: Priti Patel to half Channel crossings this month

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel at the Bond Conference London, UK on 20 March 2017 [Bond/Flickr]
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel at the Bond Conference London, UK on 20 March 2017 [Bond/Flickr]

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel announced she would half channel crossings made by refugees by the end of October and virtually eliminate them by next spring, hours after the bodies of two Iraqis washed up on a beach in Le Touquet in northern France.

The Channel, which connects France to Britain, is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and the most dangerous crossing due to the strong currents and cold water.

In August the body of an Iraqi refugee thought to have attempted the crossing was washed up on a wind farm off the Belgian coast wearing a makeshift jacket made of plastic bottles. The same month an Iraqi child was rescued from a boat navigating the waterway.

Iraqis were one of the top three nationalities seeking asylum in the UK last year. Iraqis have suffered as a result of the 2003 Iraq invasion and the subsequent expansion of Daesh, yet the UK has never had a sustained resettlement programme for Iraqis. Instead, British authorities have continuously sought to prevent their arrival.

Since becoming Home Secretary Patel has continuously promised a “radical rewrite” of the British immigration system, vowing to prioritise immigrants who add “significant value” to the UK.

“I am absolutely committed to doing everything in my power to stop these dangerous Channel crossings,” said the Home Secretary on her recent plan.

The new action plan which Patel and her French counterpart have agreed upon will see police patrols along the French coast double, beaches under round-the-clock surveillance, and new detection equipment implemented so France can intercept the boats before they leave the shore.

READ: Libyan navy rescues 90 Europe-bound migrants

According to the document created by Patel and French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, intelligence sources will be sent to France to collect information on organised criminal gangs who arrange for people to cross.

Border force officers have been sent to France to warn of the dangers of crossing the Channel and explain that refugees will have not necessarily be granted asylum or a right to stay.

AFP has reported that Britain would pay for more police to be deployed in northern France, on top of the €7 million ($7.8 million) it has already committed.

In the first six months of this year 1,473 refugees attempted the crossing compared to 586 in the whole of 2018. Rights groups have said that an increased police presence in Calais has made climbing onto lorries harder so migrants attempt the crossing instead.

Rights groups have warned that refugees will not be deterred by these measures, but that they will simply resort to more dangerous methods to enter the country.

READ: Migrant, refugee death toll in Mediterranean tops 1,000 for 6th year

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