UK Policy on Repelling English Channel Migrants: Will It Be Feasible?

British officials have said that the military will take over the protection of the sea by the end of the month, but in the first reaction, the British navy refused to take part in the plan to repel the migrants from the English Channel. “People fleeing repression must seek protection in the first safe country of entry and not risk their lives,” said Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Immigration Compliance and Courts Tom Pursglove, who blamed “criminal groups” for the transfer of migrants. The BBC’s Simon Jones says that in response to the increase in the number of people crossing the Channel, British officials have raised the possibility of mobilising the army to protect the Channel by the end of January. But the British navy refused to take part in the plan to repel the migrants.
Despite the cold of winter, migrants are still trying to cross the Channel into Britain illegally. As 168 migrants arrived by boat off the coast of Britain, officials transferred them from the coastal waters to Dover. At the same time, French coastguards rescued 126 migrants on their side of the Channel. These immigrants wanted to go to Britain in three separate boats. The survivor of a sinking boat said that when the water in the boat was gradually rising due to the failure of the boat pump, a number of migrants called the British and French border guards and asked for help. But officials from both governments failed to see it as their duty to help them and refused to provide assistance, resulting in the deaths of 27 men, women and children.
The army has reportedly been placed in charge of fighting the number of boats crossing the Channel by the prime minister. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is scheduled to take command of the operation from the border forces within a few weeks. “The government is examining all possibilities to prevent further crossings, and the details of how to achieve this will be determined later,” an FCDO spokesman said.
Boris Johnson’s plan to put the military in charge of tackling migrant boat crossings will help people smugglers, the former head of the royal navy has warned.
Lord West of Spithead said giving the navy command over the operation in the English Channel would backfire by providing a more “efficient conduit” for the work of traffickers. More detailed information on how this plan works has not yet been provided, and questions remain unanswered.
Downing Street declined to comment on “speculation” about military responsibility for controlling the English Channel by small boats, but said all options were being considered. “An unacceptable number of people continue to make dangerous crossings through the English Channel, and the tragic deaths of last November are the strongest reminder of the need to stop them,” a defence ministry spokesman said.
“The British Armed Forces are working closely with the Border Guards in this operation, providing expertise and tools as part of our Channel processes,” the Home Office added. “It is right to take every opportunity to prevent illegal passage and to protect life at sea.”
Shadow Labour Minister Yvette Cooper said the government had failed to “do serious practical work with France, which is necessary to prevent casualties and criminal gangs taking advantage of the dangerous crossings of the English Channel.” “Instead, Boris Johnson seems to be using the opportunity to follow the headlines to divert attention from the complete chaos that results from violators of Rule 10,” she said. “Three years ago, in 2019, the government hired the navy to patrol the English Channel. HMS Enterprise and HMS Mersey did not intercept any boats and cost the Ministry of the Interior 78,780,000. They should explain how these latest programmes are different.
The UK Home Office has acknowledged that evidence to support the ministry’s new immigration programme is “limited” in reducing illegal immigrants crossing the Channel. Assessing the impact of the Nationality and Boundaries Bill on Equality based on race and nationality released recently, the ministry also said the reforms would provide significant grounds for indirect discrimination and direct discrimination based on race. But the report consistently states that any discrimination as an appropriate means to achieve the policy goals of these programmes, which is to deter illegal entry into the UK, has objective justification.
The British government’s new immigration plan, which the Home Office hopes to implement through a bill currently under consideration in Parliament, seeks to help asylum seekers who enter the UK “illegally” from being deported and give them temporary legal protection.
The report, which assesses the impact of the bill, which the ministry says “ensures that equality is taken into account in the early stages of policy-making and decision-making,” acknowledges that “increasing security and deterrence” could lead asylum seekers to “take more risky steps to enter.” “Nevertheless, the use of these measures to achieve this legitimate aim encourages asylum seekers to seek asylum in the territory of the first safe country they enter, and to avoid dangerous travel to Britain by smugglers,” the report said. However, evidence on the effectiveness of this approach is limited. The document also acknowledges that there is “significant ground for indirect discrimination” in the bill and that “a group worthy of protection may be harmed and the harm done to these individuals may not be a good means of achieving the legitimate aim of this policy.”
The ministry also expressed concern about the lack of safe and legal routes to the UK for those who would be forced to cross the Channel and face punishment due to this, saying “there may be situations where a person in their country of origin is in immediate danger, but does not qualify for our refugee resettlement programme.” It goes on to say that the Home Secretary “could, in such cases, given his special and challenging circumstances, use his powers to authorise entry into the United Kingdom”, although it was not clear through which executive mechanism. At the end of the document, the ministry claims that these programmes are aimed at promoting “equal opportunities” for asylum seekers “because it may be able to persuade them not to take risks”.
Priti Patel had instructed authorities to rewrite Britain’s interpretation of maritime law so that border guards could block small boats as part of the new plans. France subsequently warned that the Channel should not be turned into a “scene of human catastrophe.” In a position that sparked diplomatic disputes between the two countries, the French interior minister promised not to cooperate with the controversial plan.
The Home Office says the new immigration plan “welcomes people on safe and legal routes while preventing the abuse of the immigration system, suppressing illegal entry and preventing people from crossing dangerous routes that pose a risk to life.” NGOs and lawyers in the UK, as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), have widely criticised the programmes, warning that they “endanger people’s lives” and undermine international asylum cooperation.

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