On September 6th the Home Office allowed over a thousand illegal migrants to cross the English Channel following weeks of bad weather and rough conditions; this is thought to be the highest daily number to date. Witnesses described seeing men, women and children being rescued by lifeboats and brought to shore around Dover.
Despite being in office for two years, Priti Patel has been unable to improve this situation and the number of boat crossings has increased over the past 12 months at a rate faster than any other year. Rumours that Boris Johnson is looking to replace her with Michael Gove is indicative of the deterioration of Ms Patel’s relationship with the Prime Minister – her survival in the recent cabinet reshuffle reflects either trust or Mr Johnson’s condemnation of her to a difficult department.
Ms Patel is facing harsh criticism after unveiling a new settlement scheme that, in its first year, would give refuge to just 5,000 people trying to escape the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Prime Minister has also pledged to help 20,000 Afghans in the longer term; however, Labour have said that this plan is too vague and simply “does not meet the scale of the challenge.”
The government was clearly surprised by the speed at which the Taliban took control, and the Home Office was, therefore, unprepared for the amount of asylum seekers that will inevitably come to Britain now legally or later illegally.
Priti Patel has vowed to make the crossing unviable for those travelling illegally and wants to allow the UK Border Force to turn back boats carrying migrants across the Channel. However, the UN Human Rights Council have said that pushbacks were in breach of international human rights law unless an “individualised assessment for each migrant concerned and other procedural safeguards” were in place.
Over 10,050 migrants have crossed in small boats this year, surpassing the previous annual record of 8,420. It is a treacherous journey and many of these families making the journey include toddlers and babies which demonstrates how desperate these people are – it is a last resort for them to find safety.
Many believe that the Home Secretary’s hard-line attitude towards immigration overlooks both the legal and moral obligation to refugees leaving France. Under international law, people have the right to seek asylum wherever they arrive, there is nothing to say it must be the first safe country you enter.
Some MPs have emphasised the need to regulate travel across the Channel more than ever considering Brexit. The Home Office must make a concerted effort to maintain a rapport with the French officials so that we can guarantee the safety of those seeking asylum. Amid the crackdown on boats arriving at Dover, a joint letter from 85 organisations warned that for lots of refugees “regulated travel is not a viable option – many people need to flee urgently and by any means necessary”.
Labour have said that the government needs to focus on bettering our settlement schemes to accommodate more migrants rather than attempting to turn away most boats that arrive at our shores. It is evident that Boris Johnson believes that with regards to the lack of facilities to accommodate the influx of refugees, the blame lies with the Home Office, and he is growing tired of Ms Patel’s inaction. Suffice to say the coming months are crucial if she wants to retain her position as Home Secretary.
Image: euronews via Flickr.