The UK’s latest deal with France to curb Channel crossings does not match the scale or urgency of the crisis and is “recycling the same failed response”, critics have claimed.
The agreement, hiking the figure paid to France by the UK to about 72 million euros (£63 million) in 2022/23, will see British officers stationed in French control rooms for the first time and a 40% boost in beach patrols along the country’s northern coastline.
Natalie Elphicke, the Conservative MP for Dover, has described the fresh multimillion-pound deal as falling “short of what’s needed”, adding that it “doesn’t match the scale or urgency of the small-boats crisis.”
Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director Steve Valdez-Symonds said: “Perpetuating this dreadful human suffering by recycling the same failed response to punish and deter desperate people in miserable and unsafe conditions has become mindless to the point of cruelty.”
What’s needed is a step-change in approach with joint border patrols and a Channel-wide joint security zone.
It’s only when migrants and people smugglers alike know that they can’t succeed in crossing the Channel in a small boat that this crisis will come to an end.
— Natalie Elphicke MP (@NatalieElphicke) November 14, 2022
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the deal fails to address the factors behind people choosing to put themselves at risk trying to reach Britain in the first place and will therefore “do little to end the crossings”.
He called for a focus on creating more “safe routes” and working with the EU and other countries to “share responsibility” for the “global challenge”, while urging the Government to do “far more” to reduce the backlogs in the current asylum system.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the migration deal with France is a “small step in the right direction”, but warned of the cost to taxpayers.
As the government announces its deal with France on channel crossings, new figures we are releasing today underline the scale of the crisis in the asylum system. They show that a staggering 122,000 people are living in limbo waiting for a decision on their asylum claim.
— Refugee Council 🧡 (@refugeecouncil) November 14, 2022
He told broadcasters on a visit to Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire: “Most people will look at this and say, look, there’s more taxpayers’ cash now being spent on a problem of the Government’s making.
“This has been going on a very, very long time. And the Home Secretary has said that the asylum system is broken. She’s right about that – they broke it.
“A small step in the right direction. But a much bigger challenge that the Government still isn’t gripping.”
"What we need to do is focus on safe routes. Until the Government acknowledges a small minority of the world's refugees want to claim asylum in the UK we will keep going round in circles with hostile policies."
— Refugee Action 🧡 (@RefugeeAction) November 14, 2022
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told Times Radio he was concerned the agreement is “throwing red meat” to people troubled by migration.
The Union for Borders, Immigration and Customs (ISU) said the Government’s agreement with France to reduce Channel crossings does not address the “sticking points” keeping numbers high.
Lucy Moreton, professional officer for the ISU, told Times Radio that interrupting migrants to “just let them go to try again” would not have the required impact and nothing in the deal suggested that “the French are going to move away from that position”.
Ms Moreton said the UK needed to deal with the issue itself by resourcing “the court system far better than it has been” in order to process claims in a shorter space of time.
Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive of charity Refugee Action, said there was nothing in the announcement that would stop people “risking their lives in small boats”.
He said: “Ministers are just going round in circles. The asylum system is in a state of collapse because for decades governments have focused time and millions of pounds on punishing people and not protecting people.”