The fact that people, including separated, unaccompanied children, are getting into flimsy boats to cross one of the world’s busiest and most dangerous shipping channels highlights the scale of desperation that, in the absence of safe and legal options, drives people to take huge risks in search of safety.
Early indications suggests that many of the people on these boats are fleeing from countries with poor human rights records and where lives are at risk – Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. We also know that most are trying to get to the UK because of existing family and kinship connections. With the authorities in Northern France systematically razing the makeshift migrant camps along the coast, people are evidently taking even more extreme risks in search of safety or to reach their families.
Criminal smuggling gangs flourish in these situations because desperate people fleeing the violence and harm disfiguring their home countries are denied safe, dependable and legal routes to enter the UK and other European countries in search of safety and protection. Unaccompanied children are at a particular risk of exploitation and trafficking. This is why we need our Government to act urgently, leading by example in Europe to expand the safe and regular options open to people in need of protection.
This must include making it easier for families torn apart by persecution, conflict and exploitation to be reunited here, which is why we are calling on the UK to make our refugee family reunion policies far less restrictive, so that far fewer vulnerable people are forced to experience the danger and the squalor of camps like the ones in Northern France.
The Refugee Council continues to call on the Government to allow more refugees to find protection in the UK through safe and regular routes by:
- Expanding the UK’s Refugee Family Reunion rules to allow more people to be reunited in safety in the UK
- Making a long term commitment to refugee resettlement beyond 2020
- Introducing humanitarian visas so that people don’t have to make dangerous journeys to the UK in order to apply for asylum
- Ensuring that, in line with the spirit of the Dubs amendment, many more of the thousands of young vulnerable refugees languishing and open to exploitation in Europe are welcomed to the UK where we know they will be well looked after.
Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said: “The fact that people are boarding flimsy boats to cross one of the world’s busiest and most dangerous shipping lanes highlights the sense of fear and hopelessness that is gripping so many of the people stuck in Northern France. Recent reports suggest that armed police are forcibly clearing and levelling the makeshift camps along the French coast with the entirely predictable consequence that desperate people are again turning to smugglers who they see as offering their only hope of reaching safety.
“It is vital that all Governments in Europe work together to ensure that people do not feel forced to take such extreme and desperate risks. In the UK we need to offer more legal and dependable routes by which people can reach safety and be reunited with their loved ones here. This requires us to welcome many more of the Dubs children currently languishing and at prey to hideous exploitation in Europe, as well as widening the definition of family members eligible to reunite under Refugee Family Reunion rules, so that people are not forced to risk their lives in order to join their kith and kin in safety.”