Cross Channel Refugee Crisis

I’ll always remember a young lady who came to see me at my legal practice one Christmas Eve a few years ago.  She had three little children with her and a bunch of carrier bags stuffed with mixed belongings, and as she came into my office she burst into tears.  She was fleeing her home for fear of injury (or worse) to herself and her children, at the hand of a violent and controlling partner.  She was seeking refuge, the shield of justice and the hand of hope for a fresh start.

Not so very different from refugees fleeing persecution and war in the Middle East, desperately seeking sanctuary, protection and a future for their children by perilously crossing the Channel to the UK.  The threat they elude is on a different scale for sure, but the fear among them as individuals will be similar.

The humanitarian aspect of the issue is easily forgotten amidst the media speak of a ‘migrant Crisis’, but this is a far cry from the million or so refugees who entered Germany in 2015.  Just 221 people, including a significant number of lone children, are known to have made cross channel attempts to the UK since early November.

These vulnerable refugees have reportedly been routed from makeshift camps around Calais by aggressive armed French police.  Many of them walk straight into the hands of opportunistic traffickers, baiting them with threats of an imminent Brexit iron curtain and relatively calm weather.  The will to make the crossing has thus been elevated and is a tragedy waiting to happen in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

Yes, a more robust marine deterrent is needed to demonstrate that cross-channel attempts are an unviable option.  At the same time, we must show balance and compassion, with safe legal routes clearly on the table for genuine asylum seekers, especially unaccompanied children.Cross Channel