We are all devastated by last night’s news that 27 men, women and children tragically lost their lives whilst trying to reach safety in Britain. This is the worst humanitarian disaster connected to the Channel in recent times, and what is truly heart breaking is that it was both predictable and preventable.
Behind every single person that needlessly lost their life last night will be a person who was looking for safety, for protection and who had hope of a new life that now will never be realised. Our thoughts are with the family members of those lost and for all our clients, staff, volunteers and supporters who stand in solidarity in mourning today.
We will honour those lost by ensuring we take action today, stand united and call for urgent and immediate change from the UK Government. No one should ever feel their only option for their future is to cross the world’s busiest shipping lane in a dinghy. 98% of those who cross the channel claim asylum. They are men, women and children who have made the heart breaking decision to leave everything they know behind to flee war, persecution and violence. They have experienced untold trauma both in their home countries and on route here to the UK.
Rather than tougher measures that seek to punish and push away, or inaccurate and false statements that seek to dehumanise and, at worse, demonise people who cross the channel, we call on the Government to adopt a fairer, more compassionate and effective set of solutions. Solutions that will proudly demonstrate our history of protection here in Britain, solutions that are led by compassion and kindness, and solutions that position the UK as leaders to Europe, if not the world, in tackling this crisis.
The only way to save lives on these dangerous routes is to stop people from believing that these journeys are the only way to have a claim for asylum heard in the UK. If the Government want to truly stop people smugglers, for example, then we must create safe routes and remove their trade. We understand this is a challenging and complex issue – but there are solutions that can be put in place.
The Refugee Council is calling on the Government to:
- commit and deliver the expansion of existing safe routes including both resettlement and refugee family reunion. The government should commit to an annual resettlement target of at least 10,000 refugees and expand the existing family reunion rules to allow child refugees to be able to sponsor their parents and adult refugees to be able to sponsor their children under the age of 25 or their elderly parents to join them in the UK.
- establish a humanitarian visa system to allow people to apply for a visa to enter the UK for the purposes of claiming asylum, thereby reducing the need for people to make dangerous journeys across the Channel. People can only claim asylum in the UK when they are physically here, which is why they make desperate, often fatal journeys to reach the UK. It doesn’t have to be this way – humanitarian visas would enable people in need of protection to travel to the UK in a safe manner.
- Recognise that many people seeking asylum will have no other option other than making an irregular journey, as recognised in the 1951 Refugee Convention, and therefore they need to be treated fairly and humanely by being granted a fair hearing on UK soil. The Government need to put in place an efficient and effective asylum decision-making system with timely decisions that are of high quality so people do not have to wait for months or years for an outcome on their case
Today, we mourn the loss of 27 people who lost their lives on the 24th November 2021. Whilst there is war, violence and persecution – there will be people seeking protection. And for those desperately seeking refuge here in the UK – the Refugee Council will be here.