IN RESPONSE to the drowning of 27 people in the Channel on Wednesday, Tory Home Secretary Priti Patel yesterday pushed her Nationality and Borders Bill.
The Bill further steps up the UK government’s war against refugees, criminalising them for crossing the Channel. Patel vowed yesterday to push ahead with plans to ‘turn back the boats’ with a fleet of border control vessels.
Those who drowned included 17 men, seven women, one of whom was pregnant, and three children.
During an emergency debate on the issue in the House of Commons yesterday Patel said that the new Bill will address the ‘underlying pull factors’ that cause people to make the journey to the UK in inflatable boats.
She said she has ‘already approved’ new Border Force tactics, ‘including boat turnarounds’. This tactic includes sending patrol boats, backed up by the British Navy to physically force asylum seekers and refugees in flimsy dinghies back to France.
She said that she has ‘again offered joint patrols with France’ during a conversation with her French counterpart.
She said: ‘I have offered to work with France to put more officers on the ground an do absolutely whatever is necessary to secure the area’. She then added: ‘We will look into the possibility of private companies having a role in patrolling the Channel.’
Patel continued: ‘The Nationality and Borders Bill will put into law a number of measures to address this issue.
‘However, we are not waiting for the Nationality and Borders Bill to pass. We are undertaking a wide range of operational and diplomatic work. I have already outlined our tactics including boat turnarounds and border force deployment.’
Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds asked about ‘properly managed, safe and legal routes,’ saying the Dubs scheme – which was launched in the UK to help unaccompanied refugee children in Europe to come to live here safely – ‘closed down after only helping 480 unaccompanied children rather than the 3,000 it was expected to help’. He called for that this scheme will be urgently reinstated.
Martyn Day SNP MP for Linlilthgow & East Falkirk: ‘This government is doubling down and criminalising those who are the victims, if they get here, with up to four years in prison. This government’s refugee family reunion rules are amongst the most restrictive in Europe.
‘The Dubs scheme was closed, resettlement schemes are in limbo. The reality is that offshoring is a disgrace. Instead of closing down and blocking safe routes we should be expanding them.
‘Will she commit today to ending all discussion about the UK using dangerous and life threatening push back tactics in the Channel.
‘The one measure that will make an immediate difference is allowing refugees and asylum seekers to make their initial application from outside the UK rather than forcing people to physically travel here to begin their application.’
Patel replied: ‘The Borders Bill will make our asylum system fit-for-purpose so that it meets the needs of those who are claiming asylum, that we stop economic migrants masquerading as asylum seekers.’
The Borders Bill actually makes provision for the authorities to arrest and jail anyone who helps refugees from drowning, even the crews of Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) lifeboats.
Ex-Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, now an Independent MP for Islington North said: ‘Instead of concentrating on more frontiers, more barbed wire, more surveillance, not just in this country but all across Europe, what we should be doing is looking at the causes of asylum in the first place.
‘The natural disasters, the wars, the abuse of human rights, the poverty.
‘Those asylum seekers are desperate people trying to survive in this world. Pushing them back is not a solution it is brutality that will go down in history as a brutal treatment of desperate people at a desperate time.’
Clare Moseley founder of Care4Calais said: ‘From our point of view the people smugglers are a symptom not the cause. The issue is that these people want to claim UK asylum and they can’t do it unless they are physically present in the UK and there is no way for them to get there other than sneaking on a boat.
‘So if we really want to change things then we need to get a way for people to claim asylum without risking their lives and that would put the people smugglers out of business.
‘Death by drowning in the winter in the cold, cold water is absolutely horrific.’