Hostile asylum policies made tragedy inevitable

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

After at least 27 people lost their lives in a Channel boat crossing, readers discuss the government’s culpability in closing off safe routes for refugees


Boris Johnson describes himself as appalled at Wednesday’s Channel tragedy (Tragedy at sea claims dozens of lives in deadliest day of Channel crisis, 25 November), and is elsewhere reported as accusing France of letting human traffickers “get away with murder”, but it’s the asylum policy of his and previous governments that has created the conditions in which trafficking can flourish and tragedies such as this can occur.

There are no options other than “irregular” ones by which asylum seekers can now enter this country. The Home Office requires physical arrival in the United Kingdom before an asylum application can be lodged. Its current nationality and borders bill, by criminalising all means of entry other than official ones that are impossible to access, is clearly intended to bring an end to finding asylum in this country. It won’t, however, bring an end to the displaced making their desperate attempts to reach our shores.

The government’s outrage at Channel trafficking is entirely cynical. Its vaunted policy of pushback hardly suggests that the safety and welfare of asylum seekers are of any concern to the Home Office. On the contrary, pushback – reverse-trafficking in other words – will result in the Channel becoming even more like the Mediterranean.
Rod Edmond
Deal, Kent

• Aditya Chakrabortty is right to remind us that Folkestone, with its celebratory artwork in Folkestone Museum, welcomed refugees in the first world war (Alone, afraid and facing exile: one boy’s ordeal indicts Britain’s asylum system, 25 November).

The generous tradition continued in the second world war, with newspapers in Folkestone library revealing that, on 20 May 1939, Czech refugees, feeling “well-cared for”, gratefully thanked the welcoming committee – led from the top by the mayor and vicar in Hythe – for arranging an amazing support package. This included daily advice, weekly free entertainment at the cinema, English language lessons, toiletries, teas, musical evenings, cheap laundry facilities, papers and books, as well as board and lodging at a guest house.

Your report (‘Performative cruelty’: UK treatment of refugees worst ever, says charity, 22 November) describes Folkestone locals continuing to quietly support young arrivals and helping them to adjust to life in the UK. This is a welcome contrast to the performative cruelty meted out during the Covid-19 pandemic by the state in Folkestone’s Napier barracks, a sad indictment of the current government’s hostility. This traumatises refugees, who should go on, like my Czech refugee grandfather, to contribute to Britain’s society and economy.
Rosamund Mykura
London

• Throughout the 19th century, British governments operated an open-door policy under which no immigrants were refused entry. Only in 1905 was the Aliens Act introduced. Even this made provision for immigrants seeking admission in order to avoid punishment or persecution on religious or political grounds. In such cases, “leave to land shall not be refused on the ground merely of want of means, or the probability of his becoming a charge on the rates”. In other words, asylum should be given to such refugees, and paid for from public funds. It is hard to see what progress we have made in over a hundred years.
Austen Lynch
Garstang, Lancashire

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