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Why the UK can’t return migrants to France – Tragedy of English Channel crisis


Tragedy struck this week after 27 people, including five women and a young girl, were confirmed to have died while attempting to cross the English Channel from France. Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned people smugglers as criminal gangs “getting away with murder” and called on France to “step up” and stop migrants making the treacherous journey to the UK.

When Priti Patel became Home Secretary in 2019, she promised to crack down on the use of small boats crossing the water to reach British shores.

But since then, record numbers have attempted the perilous journey across the English Channel in 2021.

More than 25,600 people have crossed the waters so far this year – more than triple the entire number recorded in 2020 (8,420 crossings).

Two more boats were reported to have crossed the Channel this morning, with some 40 people thought to have been on board.

The Immigration Minister confirmed the Home Secretary will speak to her French counterpart this morning about the next steps the two countries can take to halt the small boat crossings.

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Britain has sought returns agreements with France, Belgium, Germany and many others, under which migrants who come to the UK illegally would be returned to the country from which they had come.

But there is little interest in such agreements in other EU capitals in undertaking deals on these terms.

Ms Patel has agreed two multimillion-pound deals with France for the country to undertake greater policing of migrant crossings.

A £28 million deal in November 2020 was followed up with a £54 million agreement in July to fund a doubling of French police patrols on their northern coastline.

The vast majority of migrants landing in the UK are granted asylum, according to recent data from the Refugee Council.

Official figures show most asylum seekers (60 percent) from these nations are granted refugee status at their first hearing.

Some are initially refused but go on to get refugee status after an appeal.

The figures suggest only a third of those arriving are not deemed to be refugees meaning they do not qualify for asylum seeker status.

Applications for asylum in the UK fell in the months after global travel was limited due to the Covid pandemic and in fact, numbers remain slightly lower than before the pandemic.

In 2019, there were 35,737 asylum applications, which fell to 29,815 in 2020 and figures for the first half of 2021 showed 14,670 applications for asylum.

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