Why do migrants cross the Channel?

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More and more migrants are trying to cross the Channel in dinghies and other small boats.

Who are they and why are they making the trip?

How many people are trying to make the crossing?

This year, nearly 4,000 people crossed the Channel, in more than 300 small boats. There was a new record of at least 235 arrivals on August 6.

The number of crossing attempts is higher – but some boats are intercepted by French authorities before reaching British waters.

Boats tend to be small, overcrowded dinghies. Passengers sometimes include babies and children – and they cross one of the world’s most dangerous and busy shipping lanes.

Under international maritime law, people who risk losing their lives at sea must be rescued.

How many migrants arrive in the UK each year?

In 2019, some 677,000 people moved to the UK as long-term immigrants, for reasons such as work or study.

There were also 49,000 asylum requests.

Thus, the 4,000 unauthorized arrivals from the Channel represent less than 1% of all immigrants last year.

The number of asylum seekers arriving and asking to stay in other European countries is much higher than in the UK. Last year 165,600 applied for asylum in Germany, 129,000 in France and 118,000 in Spain.

Channel crossings by migrants in small boats

Number of people arriving in the UK each month since July 2019

Where do Channel migrants come from?

In short, the poorest and most chaotic regions of the world. Recent arrivals included entire families from Yemen, Eritrea, Chad, Egypt, Sudan and Iraq.

Many seek asylum once they are taken in by UK authorities.

Others are economic migrants who have no real right to asylum. They are looking to work in UK without applying for a visa because they think it is better than staying in their home country.

Why are they crossing the Channel?

Over the past 20 years, organized crime gangs have created a whole industry of trafficking people from Asia and Africa across Europe. Families sometimes save huge sums of money to send just one parent to Europe.

In the case of refugees, it is very difficult to apply for asylum in the UK unless you are already in the country. British border controls for the Channel are in the port of Calais – which is highly secure.

For years, smugglers have been organizing the sending of people across the Channel in trucks. Among them, the 39 Vietnamese found dead in a refrigerated truck last October.

As port security was tightened, new attempts were made to send people by boat.

Shouldn’t they stay in France or in another country?

It depends. Under a long-standing European Union agreement called ‘Dublin III’, the UK has the right to return anyone seeking asylum if they could reasonably have claimed it in another pending country. of road.

  • What happens to migrants taken in charge in the Channel?
  • UK and France sign Calais treaty on migrants

This deal will end at the end of the Brexit transition period – next January – unless the UK and the EU agree to a similar deal.

Other newcomers may have a stronger case to seek asylum in the UK as they already have relatives here.

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Media captionSimon Jones of BBC Breakfast at Sea with Migrants Crossing the Channel

What is happening to them in the UK?

When migrants are picked up while crossing the Channel, they are usually taken by UK border forces to short-term detention centers.

If someone applies for asylum and has no money, then they can be placed in accommodation anywhere in the UK. This is paid for by the Home Office while the request is being considered.

Others could be kept in detention before plans to return them to Europe.

How many migrants are returned?

Since January 2019, around 155 migrants who crossed the Channel have been returned to continental Europe.

Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel recently told MPs that 166 more were ready to be sacked and officials had asked Europe to receive nearly 600 more.

Refugee and migrant charities, however, say the system is deeply unfair. They say people are regularly screened for removal from the UK when they can reasonably claim to stay.

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Brook House Immigration Removal Center near Gatwick Airport can accommodate up to 448 detainees


What is the government doing about level crossings?

Priti Patel said the UK is asking for more cooperation from the French to intercept the boats – or to prevent them from leaving in the first place.

Parliament’s influential Home Affairs Committee is launching an investigation into how the UK and French governments work together.

Critics say more needs to be done to prosecute smugglers on both sides of the Channel.

Charities that support migrants say if the government made it easier to apply for asylum in the UK, the number of illegal crossings would decrease.

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