Keir Starmer has announced details of a new immigration policy which Labor says will result in criminals involved in cross-Channel people smuggling being considered terrorists.
He suggested that an agreement to return people crossing the Channel could include accepting quotas of asylum-seekers through the EU, and to do so set clear divisions before the election between of Labor and Conservatives on immigration.
Staff from Care4Calais, a refugee charity that provides humanitarian aid to thousands of people living in dire conditions in northern France, gave their views on the policy.
Steve Smith, CEO of Care4Calais
Now is a chance for Keir Starmer to inject some decency and compassion into the refugee debate. Instead, he chose to mirror the gimmicks and divisive rhetoric used by the Conservatives.
“Smash the gangs” might get him a headline of the Day, but it’s not the plan. It is no better than the prime minister’s hollow slogan “stop the boats”.
It is clear that neither Starmer nor Sunak understand the causes and effects of the global refugee crisis.
I was in Calais with our team delivering humanitarian aid to refugees just two weeks ago. I met men, women and children, each with their own stories of the horrors they had escaped in their homelands, such as Afghanistan, Sudan, Syria and Eritrea. Each made the heartbreaking decision to leave their homes in search of a secure future.
None of them are in Calais because they want to be. They exist because the current government has effectively closed every safe route to claim asylum in the UK. And that is the cause of this problem.
If the refugees in Calais had the option of a safe route, they would not choose to risk their lives crossing the Channel in a small boat. The government’s failure to offer safe routes creates a “market” for criminal gangs to exploit refugees fleeing conflict, torture and modern slavery.
Headline-grabbing slogans will not solve this problem. Until their “market” is disrupted, gangs will continue to exploit refugees seeking asylum in the UK.
A leader who is serious about becoming the next prime minister should know this and make a serious plan. So Keir Starmer must now announce that a Labor government will introduce a safe passage visa, similar to the scheme created for Ukrainians. It will see offshore applications pre-screened, and safe passage offered to those with potential asylum claims.
Offering refugees safe passage would put smugglers out of business and end small-scale overnight boat crossings.
Safe passage, along with some of Starmer’s less headline-grabbing ideas – such as efficient processing of asylum claims and negotiating a new deal with the EU – has a way to fix the UK’s broken asylum system.
Imogen Hardman, an operations manager based in refugee camps in northern France
Keir Starmer’s plans to crack down on people-smugglers and end small boat crossings across the Channel this way will fail.
While conditions on the ground here in northern France are increasingly difficult for asylum seekers hoping to reach the UK by crossing the Channel in small boats, more rhetoric and enforcement measures have not deterred people. to cross.
We have seen from the high numbers that have continued to cross since Rwanda’s plan was announced in April 2022 that the restrictions are not working. Hints that asylum seekers will be put on barges like the Bibby Stockholm don’t work either.
I started working in northern France in 2020 and took a year off before returning in March of this year. Since my return, the number of asylum seekers in northern France is higher than when I started.
There is no doubt that the rhetoric from the British government makes people more afraid but instead of stopping them it only makes them take more risks to reach the UK.
Since March of this year alone, so many people have lost their lives, with three people dying trying to get into the back of a truck as well as six asylum seekers from Afghanistan who drowned.
Nothing stops the crossings and smugglers except humanitarian visas for refugees, which can be used from anywhere in the world.
People are fleeing some great things in their countries and the restrictive policies of the UK government cannot stop them from trying to reach safety. Those who want to come often speak the language or have relatives here and many of them have told me that they see the UK as a country that supports human rights. The only way to prevent crossings and smugglers is to give refugees safe passage.
But unfortunately, asylum seekers here have become pawns in the general election game and lost their humanity and individual stories.