Increasing cases of Channel Crossings, Is Interception a reasonable solution to this problem?
Author: Shaurya Shukla, Chanakya National Law University, Patna.
A lot of asylum seekers try to cross the English channel through France to reach the United Kingdom and they also warn the navy that they will drown themselves if they are stopped. As these channel crossings are on a rise, there is a chaotic situation in the immigration department of the UK. These refugees have gathered in France from different parts of the world like Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. These people are suffering from a state of pandemonium and depression as they have no food, no money and no reason to continue their life. Such kind of a lifestyle has left them with only one choice i.e. to cross the English channel and reach the UK. They are also not allowed to seek employment. Most of them want to reach England as they are proficient in the English language and they have family connections there. Emigration department of UK expressed an idea of using battleships to stop such interceptions but this is not a reasonable decision. Through this blog, the author will discuss the rise of channel crossings and will throw some light on the safe and legal asylum alternatives to curb channel crossings.
Rise of channel Crossing through the English Channel
Channel Crossings are on a rapid rise. Last year, over 1400 people crossed the English Channel in small boats and reached the UK and at least two lives were lost in such incidents. This year, more than 5500 people have attempted to cross the English Channel to reach the UK. The UK has already spent 5.5 million euros on stopping such incidents but still, they haven’t got any fruitful result. It must be ensured that no more lives must be lost as the stakeholders here are humans, not cattle. The UN refugee agency said the number of such incidents is manageable and the plan of intercepting such boats and deploying the large naval vessels for stopping such crossing is not feasible because this can result in harmful and fatal incidents.
Though under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the sea, a country has the right to act in its waters when faced with an “inbound vessels carrying migrants which are intending to commit a contravention of the coastal state’s immigration laws any decision should be taken after considering all the humanitarian considerations, for example, taking into account the refugee rights which are guaranteed by European Convention of human rights.
Can Interception at Sea be a possible Solution for Curbing Channel Rights?
Both UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and International organization for Migration (IOM) are troubled by the proposal to intercept boats and return those attempting to cross the English Channel irregularly. Deployment of large naval vessels to stop such crossings can be dangerous as it can result in fatal and life-threatening incidents. Though the number of such interceptions is on a rise but the number is manageable. UNHCR and IOM reiterate their call to governments in Europe and elsewhere to increase search and rescue efforts and combat human smuggling and trafficking rings. The solution can be achieved to this problem by providing asylum to those people who are in need such as victims of trafficking and unaccompanied children. People who want to return to their country of origin and are not in the need of international protection should be facilitated to reach their country of origin. Countries must ensure that asylum seekers and migrants are aware of their legal options and they should be adequately supported in pursuing them, countries should also ensure that those people who have grounds for regular entry, including to reunify with their families, can do so quickly and effectively without having to resort to such a dangerous journey.
Safe and Legal asylum alternatives to curb Channel Crossings
The government and the humanitarian groups are on different sides regarding the mechanism to curb channel crossings. The government is of view to intercept the small boats at the very beginning when they began to leave France by using big naval ships whereas the humanitarian groups argue the way to reduce the number of attempted crossings is to offer alternative “safe and legal” routes to the UK to claim asylum. The author supports the view expressed by humanitarian groups. The Safe and legal asylum alternatives to curb channel crossings are as follows:-
Family Reunion rules which are enshrined in the Dublin Declaration must be protected. After the applicant claims asylum, the Dublin process can take up to 11 months. If the application is accepted, the applicant will legally travel to join their family. The applicant is entitled to live in the same European country as their family members while their asylum claim is processed.
Unaccompanied children must be offered more places as they are more susceptible to crimes like trafficking, rape, sexual abuse etc.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) operates many resettlement programmes in partnership with countries around the world, including the UK. Resettlement programmes transfer recognized refugees from an asylum country to another third country with the aim of permanent settlement in the third country. These schemes must be utilized and expanded.
Refugees should be given humanitarian visas as a humanitarian visa would allow a person to enter the UK to apply for asylum.
Conclusively, the author wants to criticize the decision of the government to intercept the small boats at the very beginning of their journey by naval vessels as it can result in fatalities. Every person has some basic human rights and above that, every refugee has some rights which, guarantee protection to his life. It will be highly unreasonable and arbitrary to kill refugees who are trying to cross the English Channel to reach the UK. Instead of following such callous method, government should adhere to the refugee law and assist the refugees by respecting the family reunion rules, protecting unaccompanied children, expanding resettlement programs and providing them with humanitarian visas.