MPs have claimed that the government’s attempts “find a silver bullet solution” to end channel crossings will fail.
In a report published today, the House of Commons’ home affairs committee finds that the asylum agreement with Rwanda so far shows no evidence of being a deterrent. It calls on the government to fix the asylum system that continues to struggle with a backlog in cases despite little growth in the overall claims.
Crossings in small boats continue to rise. 28,5000 people arrived in the UK in 2021 and 14,000 have come so far in 2022, with the total expected to be 60,000 by the end of the year. The 20-mile journey is across the world’s busiest shipping lane and hazardous in the small craft commonly used. At least 166 people have died or gone missing attempting the crossing, including 27 in a single day.
The report finds that efforts by the government to find a single, low-cost, solution to close off this route of entry are unrealistic and will not succeed. Threats of being put on a flight to Rwanda with no chance of return to the UK have so far failed to stop people making the extremely dangerous journey across the Channel. Their motivations, and their understanding of what will happen when they arrive in the UK, are also poorly understood and insufficient to inform good policy.
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MPs claim that an effective deterrent scheme would need to prevent small boats from ever leaving France, writing that people with a valid asylum claim should not need to risk their lives to get to the UK. While individual schemes have been set up in response to international crises supporting resettlement to the UK, most asylum applications have to be made after arrival in the UK.
The report too argues that “safe and legal routes” need to be established to support those with an asylum claim entering the UK. The government should also explore setting up UK asylum processing facilities in France, with the agreement of the French government, so that claims can be assessed there.
MPs say a “fair and efficient” system will need to be fully costed, and that the UK must work on tandem with European partners to ensure its success.
The report also says that the government ought to reveal the detailed costings for its Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda, including the costs for relocation- if part of its reasoning is that it will reduce the £1.5 billion current cost.
Publishing the report, the committee’s chair Dame Diana Johnson said: “The failure to ensure safe routes are available to all those who would have a rightful asylum claim leaves people little choice but to use drastic measures to get here.
“Despite much sabre rattling that people should claim asylum in the first safe country they arrive in, the government has made slow progress in setting up deals with international partners to facilitate returns. Its deterrent policy of sending asylum applicants to Rwanda appears to have gone unnoticed by those who attempt to cross the Channel,” she went on.
Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais- a charity the provides aid to asylum seekers in Belgium and France-welcomed the report, stating: “The Rwanda scheme currently serves only to punish those seeking safety and will not succeed in preventing people smuggling. It has been our repeated experience that policies based on deterrence do not achieve any effect.
“We also welcome the recommendation that one solution is to work on safe and legal routes. However, while we understand that the committee has considered the possibility of setting up asylum processing centres in France, we think it is unlikely that France would agree to this.
“We believe that a better alternative to stop people-smuggling would be to issue travel-only visas to other refugees in the same way they have been issued to Ukrainian refugees. On arrival in the UK, these refugees can then claim asylum.”
Politics.co.uk has reached out to several other organisations for comment.