Key questions as charities urge ‘safe routes’ following migrant boat tragedy

By PA Reporters
·3-min read

Charities have renewed calls for the Government to allow asylum seekers to apply for refuge in the UK from outside its borders, after four people died when a migrant boat sank off the coast of France.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the problems and possible solutions surrounding those making the perilous journey.

– What are the laws currently?

The UK and French Governments have been embroiled in a row over the interpretation of maritime law and what this means for action on crossings.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has been open about her frustrations with her French counterparts, previously calling for co-operation from ministers on the Continent and pledging to make the route “unviable”.

Current legal obligations mean Border Force vessels can only carry out search and rescue missions and, once on board, migrants can claim asylum in the UK.

– What resources are available in the Channel?

Border Force only has a limited number of cutters – the vessels it uses to intercept migrants and bring them to shore.

Medical checks need to be carried out on migrants and they then need to be escorted from the area to be questioned by officials and provided with accommodation while their asylum claims – if made – are handled.

When a surge of crossings happen all at once, Border Force, lifeguard and Coastguard teams are overwhelmed and cannot address all the incidents at the same time.

– How are authorities taking action on criminal gangs of people-smugglers?

The Government has condemned criminal gangs who exploit migrants by offering to get them across the Channel to the UK in small boats for large sums of money.

A series of investigations has already brought some people-smugglers to justice, but more are still operating and law enforcement bodies continue to try to crack down on their activities.

Following Tuesday’s tragedy, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said authorities “will do all we can to crack down on the ruthless criminal gangs who prey on vulnerable people by facilitating these dangerous journeys”.

– And what have charities said about the crossings?

Human rights and asylum charities have repeatedly called for “safe and legal routes” to be made available, which would allow migrants to claim asylum in France for the UK and for this to be determined before they cross the Channel.

Clare Moseley, who founded the refugee crisis charity Care4Calais, called for the tragedy on Tuesday to be a “wake-up call” for those in power in the UK and France.

She said: “It is cruel and horrifying that, this time, young children are among the victims.”

She renewed calls for the Government to provide a “safe and legal process” for UK asylum claims to be heard, which would “put an end to terrifying, dangerous sea crossings and stop tragedy striking again”.

– Are there any other solutions?

Changes to the law and entering into a bilateral agreement with France to address the current situation may be the only way to tackle the crisis, according to some.

This would ensure any vessel picking up migrants would be able to return them to the port from which they departed, and meet obligations to prevent loss of life in the Channel.