While people fleeing the war in Ukraine seek refuge in Britain, refugees continue to cross the English Channel from the French city of Calais to the coast of south-east England. Britain is now facing criticism, both from domestic and French voices - who claim that they take far too little responsibility for the refugee situation in Europe.
It has been just over eight months since the tragedy on the English Channel when an inflatable boat with migrants on its way from the French city of Calais to the English south coast capsized. 27 people died in what has been described as the highest consecutive death toll since the count started in 2014, according to the BBC.
The event received a lot of media attention and resulted in the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson and the President of France Emmanuel Macron promising increased cooperation to prevent this from happening again. Among other things, the United Kingdom promised grants on £ 54 million, just over 700 million Swedish kronor, in 2021 and 2022 to increase the surveillance and security of the French coastline and its ports.
"Our asylum system is fundamentally broken"
According to The BBC arrived more than 28 migrants to the British coastline last year - which is almost a doubling from the year before. This places the southeastern county of Kent at the center of the political debate on the country's immigration. 2100 people is expected to have already crossed the canal this year, despite harsh weather conditions, according to Sky News. The figure is expected to rise to over 60, a calculation made before the invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent wave of refugees.
The British government has repeatedly promised to increase its efforts to make the canal less attractive as a migration route. Among other things, the country has disregarded 234 pounds, equivalent to about three million Swedish kronor, for a chartered boat which according to The Home Office, The UK Home Office, responsible for migration issues, will facilitate the transport of migrants from the canal directly to UK reception centers. The measure is part of the new bill Nationality and Borders Bill, which according to the British Home Secretary Priti Patel is to combat human trafficking and illegal immigration. In October 2020, she spoke on the Conservative Party's virtual conference and described Britain's current migration system as broken.
- A just asylum system should provide a safe path for those fleeing persecution, oppression and tyranny. But ours does not, because our asylum system is fundamentally broken and we have an obligation to act, she said.
It is in these initiatives that the British government faces criticism, including from Minnie Rahman, representative of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. She believes that people fleeing conflict and persecution have the right to travel safely and that the wave of refugees following the invasion of Ukraine has made this more obvious.
"If the government were actually serious about counteracting risky canal crossings, then they would establish proper regulated roads directly to the UK for asylum seekers," she said in an interview with Sky News.
The Nationality and Borders Bill was approved by Parliament on 28 April 2022. At the same time, the conflict in Ukraine has led to the establishment of other routes into the country, especially for Ukrainian refugees. So far over 10 people applied to the so-called Ukraine's Family Scheme - a new system introduced by the government that allows Ukrainian citizens with family ties in the UK to stay in the country for three years. However, the British handling of these applications has met with criticism from France, which claims that the process goes too slowly and that Britain takes far too little responsibility for the refugee situation in Europe.
"The British must put their rhetoric into action," Gérald Darmanin, France's interior minister, told Sky News.