Asylum seekers sleeping rough in Calais

Asylum Seekers in Calais Know the Lie of ‘Take Back Control’

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Results of a Care4Calais poll released today reported that of 139 refugees sleeping rough in Calais had shown a majority (55%) think they have a better chance post-Brexit of getting asylum in the UK than before. Only 18% thought they had a worse chance. These are the claims that have made the headlines.

However, the charity’s report shows other findings with much larger and more alarming majorities that belie government rhetoric on immigration and asylum. Two-thirds of refugees in Calais surveyed say they will now attempt to make crossings to the UK by lorry rather than by boat.

Further, 63% say that they feel ‘less safe’ post-Brexit, due to treatment and attitudes on the ground in France. According to volunteers with the charity and other NGO’s on the ground, tactics from police have become increasingly violent with reports of the use of tear gas and aggressively moving people on.

All of those surveyed for the report are sleeping rough in Calais, as the French authorities push back against the creation of another ‘Jungle’ camp. Last autumn, French police were again dismantling makeshift camps and moving asylum seekers situated there onto buses, without explaining where they were going.

This comes as the UK Home Office continues to make claims that its overhaul of the asylum system will make it ‘fairer’ and ‘safer’, helping the vulnerable and criminalising those who seek to take advantage. As part of doing so, new immigration rules state that asylum seekers coming to the UK can be returned to a ‘safe third country’ they have passed through, or indeed any country deemed ‘safe’ by the Home Office that will accept them.

The port of Calais where asylum seekers try to reach the UK
The port of Calais [Image: Andreas Göllner, Pixabay]

While the UK Home Office deems France a ‘safe third country’, where asylum seekers who have fled their home countries should be more than happy to lodge their asylum claims, Care4Calais’ survey and the report that proceeded it almost 12 months ago, reveal the same truth campaigners and asylum seekers alike have stood by for years; conditions in Calais, France and other ‘hot spots’ for containment of asylum seekers are not safe.

The erasure of the voices that matter, those of asylum seekers themselves, has been almost complete were it not for the incredible work of Care4Calais and other organisations like them. Even if we only hear them through data like this survey, their views make clear the waste of time, money, and resources the increase in security and militarisation on our borders really is.

In Immigration Minister Chris Philp’s insistent response that ‘the claim that getting asylum is any easier now is categorically untrue’, it’s embarrassingly clear he does not want to address the elephant in the room; your authoritarianism falls on deaf ears.

The cries of ‘take back control’ didn’t make it across the Channel. While the British government continues to respond in the Channel with drones and naval ships and pay millions to France for increased border security, these measures will not prevent the numbers coming or the necessity for them to move. Without safe and legal routes being implemented and secured as a matter of urgency, the UK and France together will continue to feed this cycle.

Reporting alone that asylum seekers and refugees think it’s easier to claim asylum in the UK now than before will probably raise more than a few eyebrows, feeding the narrative that people seeking refuge are chancers, trying their luck. In the wake of deaths from dangerous journeys in the Channel, it seems misplaced.

Claiming or seeking asylum has never been ‘easy’. However, as long as the Home Office are moved more by ideology and bias than well-founded evidence and the voices of those on the ground, they will be betrayed by the consequences of their own actions. A militarised and more authoritarian response will cause more tragedy and deaths, but it won’t stop the real causes of migration and seeking asylum. If the Home Office would care to listen, perhaps they would learn.

Most of those, when questioned about why they want to come to the UK for the survey, a majority said because they have family here. 28% said, heartbreakingly, that it was because they ‘like the culture’. As Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais stated ‘They are simply asking for our help’.

[Header Image: Care4Calais]