The UK Home Office has recently announced one of the latest attempts by some 430 migrants to cross the English Channel to enter the United Kingdom illegally. For example, a group of 50 people, including women and children, arrived at the shore of Kent County in one boat. Since the beginning of 2021, about 8,000 people on about 345 boats have already entered Britain this way. According to British media reports, this number is a new record. In seven months of this year, the number of illegal migrants entering Britain across the English Channel has already exceeded the total number of entries for the entire year of 2020. In this regard, the UK Home Office announced drastic steps would be taken to solve the intolerable problem of illegal migration, and Home Secretary Priti Patel pledged to make the channel crossing “inviable.”
The British have shown different attitudes to what is happening regarding people who cross borders illegally: some support them, some accuse them of breaking laws. Earlier, The Times investigated and concluded that the police could not protect thousands of girls in Britain from sexual abuse by migrants.
As you know, the resettlement scheme is the primary way to obtain asylum in Britain. The current rules mean that refugees can remain in the country for five years, after which they can apply for permission to stay indefinitely. However, starting in October, the scheme will allow for an indefinite residence permit. Those who come to Britain illegally, on the other hand, will only be able to apply for temporary settlement, which will be repeatedly reviewed until migrants can return to a safe country.
Even in the run-up to the 2019 early elections, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged: “To regain control of the borders after leaving the EU.” Let us recall in this regard that disagreements with Brussels on migration policy were one of the key reasons that triggered the Brexit procedure – the UK’s exit from the EU, which has now officially become a fait accompli. To this end, Johnson’s office now seeks to promptly keep its promise, and in June, the Conservative Party submitted a bill to parliament for discussion, designed to fundamentally change the migration law, some provisions of which have already caused discontent in Berlin and Paris.
As noted by British news channel Sky News, previously used measures such as imprisonment, the possibility of deportation, and sending them to the distribution center would not stop the most desperate irregular migrants. Therefore, the Home Office expects that stricter penalties can discourage people from dangerous crossing the English Channel. In addition, the department promised safe, legal admission for some of the migrants and pressure on countries that refuse to enter into agreements on migration, vital to putting the British government’s plans into practice. Still, in line with its past imperial colonial doctrines, Britain intends to “punish” those countries that will not take back their citizens deported from the kingdom.
To further tighten the migration law is also aimed at the recent draft law submitted by the UK Home Office, which provides criminal liability for knowingly entering the country without the necessary documents and increasing the penalty for this from six months to four years in prison. Persons who provide services for the illegal transportation of migrants will face life imprisonment (now the maximum term is 14 years in prison). Following previous imperial policies, British Home Secretary Priti Patel called the bill “fair but firm,” noting that the country would accept those who enter “in safe and lawful ways” while preventing abuse of the immigration system.
The Daily Telegraph, trying to find an explanation for the Home Office’s legislative proposals, notes the British government’s concern that the crime of “entry without permission” does not technically apply to migrants intercepted in territorial waters and brought ashore by border forces. Therefore, the changes proposed by the Home Office are designed to prosecute those intercepted by border guards attempting to cross the Channel and enter the country. Also, under the proposals, those seeking asylum in Britain would need to provide more evidence of persecution in their home countries to avoid deportation. As the British edition notes, in this way, the government is trying to regain the initiative because of the doubling of the number of illegal migrants who crossed the border this year and the inability to deport them back to “safe” third countries.
According to The Times citing research by the Refugee Council, the proposed bill by the UK Home Office to tighten immigration laws would cost taxpayers a very large sum. Thus, just keeping illegal migrants in prison could cost the kingdom ₤412 million annually, or ₤1.65 billion for four years of imprisonment. However, the charity specified that the cost of imprisoning refugees would be five times higher than the cost of keeping them in the asylum support system.
Moreover, according to a poll conducted by the Refugee Council in cooperation with the British Future UK-based think tank, most Britons do not support the bill. Three of the five residents of Albion agree that the asylum system needs improvement. Still, they believe that any reforms should preserve the basic principle of protecting those who need it. Therefore, more than half of those surveyed agreed that every migrant should expect a fair consideration of their asylum application.
In addition to these steps, as The Times reports, London and Paris have agreed to tighten measures to combat illegal immigration amid criticism of British Home Secretary Priti Patel for failing to stop the growing number of migrants. Such an influx of refugees led the British Home Secretary Priti Patel and French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin to sign an agreement to allocate an additional ₤54 million to combat illegal migration. These funds will be used, among other things, to strengthen beach patrols in northern France and to acquire more advanced technology to detect smugglers. The said document also provides for doubling the number of police officers patrolling the beaches to prevent boats from leaving the French coast, and their number will have to reach 200 people. In addition, drones, radar, and thermal imaging equipment will be put at the disposal of the police.
However, residents condemned the agreement in France and Britain, believing that “good money was being thrown away on bad decisions.” This brings to mind an earlier ₤28 million deal with Paris in November to strengthen beach patrols, which failed to prevent an increase in the number of illegal aliens.
At the same time, attention must be drawn to the fact that Britain, through its draft laws, is trying to translate the problem of migration into increased repressive measures on the part of the British authorities instead of addressing the root causes of this migration. And it is well known; they are caused by the aggressive policy of London and Washington to unleash armed conflicts in the Middle East, creating chaos and devastation. People of those countries subject to armed aggression of the West are trying to find refuge from hunger and devastation in Europe and, in particular, in Britain today.
Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.