The past year has seen a significant increase in the number of migrants trying to get to the UK on boats, with very few other options open. In 2020 8,438 people crossed the English Channel in small boats. The trend has been continuing over the first few weeks of 2021 with 386 people reaching the shore. Instead of providing more humanitarian assistance, the government has been spending more and more money on equipment attempting to prevent them from reaching the country.
Costly Policies in the English Channel
The UK recently signed a £28 million agreement with France to curb migrant crossings. The deal foresees the enhancement of surveillance technology, which includes the purchase and wider use of drones, radar equipment, cameras and optronic binoculars.
Additionally, in 2020, Home Office allocated over £6 million to investments in new security equipment to use in operations in the Channel. A contract for a ‘vessel arrest entanglement boom’ device worth £12,395 called it an ‘urgent requirement’. The device will supposedly stop vessels by entangling their propellers.
RAF planes, such as the Airbus A400M have also patrolled the Channel in attempts to make the route ‘unviable’. Primarily a transport craft, the Uk has spent an estimated £3.2bn on their fleet.
As a former RAF pilot, Andy Netherwood said these operations could be done at ‘a fraction of the cost’ if a different kind of plane was deployed.
Home Office is committed to making the journey so difficult that the migrants will decide against embarking on it. Instead of coming to the UK, officials encourage migrants to apply for asylum in countries they get to before.
The UK Home Office’s Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, Dan O’Mahoney addressed people seeking asylum saying: ‘You will pass through multiple safe countries with perfectly civilized and functioning asylum systems. Rather than paying huge amounts of money for facilitators to move you across Europe… claim asylum in the first safe country that you come to’.
Ineffective Tough Borders
Many of those hoping to get asylum in the UK have to face the harsh reality of being sent back to other European states. Under the new rules introduced earlier that year, asylum claims can be treated as invalid if the person passed through ‘safe countries’ before they reached the UK.
Nevertheless, despite the expensive efforts to make the journey unviable, people still frequently try to cross the Channel no matter the risk. Last week 49 people were stopped during an attempt to get to Britain. Further, 87 migrants were intercepted and detained in Dover on Saturday. In total, in February, 221 people attempted the crossing, putting their lives at risk.
Despite the military assistance and efforts to make the journey unviable, people still frequently try to cross the Channel.
Instead of spending money on policies and measures that do not work, the Home Office should look for an alternative solution to the problem.
Safe and Legal Routes Needed
Home Secretary Priti Patel’s approach has been criticised by organisations advocating for migrants’ rights. Though Patel claims that accepting people who seek asylum is an economic burden to the UK, ‘she throws taxpayers’ money away on more of the same measures that stand no chance of having a significant impact on this dangerous state of affairs’ said Bella Sankey, director of humanitarian charity Detention Action.
The Home Office is committed to making the journey so difficult that the migrants will decide against embarking on it
Without safe and legal routes, people will continue to pay traffickers to get them to the UK to provide a better future for their families. Traffickers will take advantage of their position, feeding the cycle the government is publicly saying it wants to avoid.
No military tactics, technological devices, or policies that justify the use of force in preventing the English Channel crossings can solve the problem. The government’s approach is not only harmful to migrants; despite all the tough talk it is failing to deal with the issue.
[Header image: BBC]