Five years after the dismantling of the Calais “jungle”, the United Kingdom wants to harden its asylum system

Orange hearts « Together with refugees » (“Together with the refugees”) stuck on the chest, banners « Refugees welcomed here » (“Refugees are welcome here”), or « No one is illegal » (“No one is illegal”): Wednesday, October 20, thousands of people responded to the call of British associations for the protection of migrants’ rights in Parliament Square, opposite the Palace of Westminster, for a demonstration against a bill from Boris Johnson’s government to criminalize Channel crossings.

The text, ardently defended by the Minister of the Interior, Priti Patel, brexiteuse from the start, creates a “subclass” of asylum seekers for those who arrive irregularly on the national territory. They will have fewer rights and possibilities of appeal than those passed through legal channels (asylum requests in consulates abroad, etc.). They would even be threatened with prison terms for arriving ” without authorization “. “This difference in treatment has no basis in international law”, denounced the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in a statement on September 23. The bill also authorizes pushbacks – the return of migrant boats to French waters – in violation of the law of the sea, which obliges any ship to come to the aid of a boat in difficulty.

The text, currently being examined by a parliamentary committee, is a new attempt by the conservative government to keep its promise of tighter control of migration after divorce with the European Union (EU). Priti Patel is under pressure in her own party, as the Channel crossings have grown strongly in two years. Around 18,000 people have reached the United Kingdom in “small boats” since the start of the year, compared to less than 2,000 in 2019. They are Iranians, Iraqis, Eritreans, Syrians, Vietnamese …

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“It has become the main means of passage”, assures Xavier Delrieu, head of the Central Office for the Repression of Irregular Immigration (Ocriest), who sees it as the result of several combined factors: securing the port of Calais (Pas-de-Calais) and the ‘Eurotunnel, the slowdown in air and road traffic during the Covid-19 crisis and higher chances of success than by truck. “ On 120 kilometers of coast, the number of launching places is incalculable, confides Mr. Delrieu. Eradicating the phenomenon is impossible. Our goal is to contain it and dismantle as many networks as possible to make it less profitable. “

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Five years after the dismantling of the Calais “jungle”, the United Kingdom wants to harden its asylum system