The Government is mishandling the 'Migrant Crisis'

Gemma Powell criticises the current Government response to the 'Migrant Crisis'

Gemma Powell
24th August 2020
Refugees on a boat crossing the Mediterranean sea, heading from Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, 29 January 2016.
The Government has announced plans to deploy the Royal Navy to intercept refugee boats and stop people seeking asylum in the UK. Around 4,000 people have made the journey across the Channel this year. The decision comes as media crews filmed more migrants being brought onshore on the 8th August. Earlier, Home Secretary Priti Patel sparked controversy with a Tweet saying that she was working to make the route “dangerous” and “unviable”. In light of the Home Office's aggressive response, questions must be asked about the recent choices of the British government.

The aim of this new policy is to deter people from risking their lives in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Rubber dinghies alongside cargo ships creates a severe hazard in the Channel. If a tragedy was to occur, as they have in many places across the world since the migrant crisis began, the blame would be laid at the Downing Street door. The Navy will not only be deployed as a deterrent. They are also expected to function as lifeguards, rescuing refugees from dire circumstances and returning others to France.

However, with such limited numbers crossing the channel this year, is it worth the cost of deploying Royal Navy ships? In 2015, the UK took in 123,000 refugees, roughly 0.2% of the English population. That was in a year when the crisis was far more severe than the one we face today. The 4,000 people whom have crossed in 2020 increase the population by less than 0.0001%. Using the Navy to intercept such a minute number of refugees saps valuable government resources which are needed elsewhere more than ever. This will likely cost the taxpayer greater amounts in the long run, and we may instead decide that it would be less burdensome to accept all of this year’s asylum seekers in one go.

Perhaps building a better relationship with France would help reduce numbers of migrants coming to British shores. It may help some of the refugees to seek asylum in France instead. At present, the UK has the right to send migrants back to France under the EU’s Dublin III agreement, with the argument that refugees could reasonably claim asylum there. However, this arrangement ends next January. After this, France will have no obligation to intercept any ships heading for the UK or any accept any migrants back who set off from their soil. Thus, rather than deploying cumbersome and expensive Navty boats, the UK’s resources may be better spent on negotiating a fresh, post-Brexit arrangement with France. This seems the most viable way of curbing the pressures of the so-called 'Migrant Crisis'.

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