Responding to reports on 24th November that a number of people have lost their lives crossing the Channel trying to reach sanctuary in the UK, we say:
“We are devastated to hear about the tragedy in the channel. Our thoughts are with the victims and all of their families who have lost brothers and sisters; mums and dads; daughters and sons.
This tragedy should never have happened. No one should feel their only option is to cross the world’s busiest shipping lane in a flimsy dinghy.
In the years leading up to this horror, our government has pursued cheap headlines by blaming desperate people, rather than engaging in serious policy engagement with its neighbours in Europe. It has closed down the remaining safe routes, such as family reunion and the Dubs Amendment. This has led to the absurd situation that, for many people fleeing war or brutal dictatorships, the only way they can ask for safety here is by putting their life at risk in order to physically touch UK soil.
No one wants to see smugglers profiteering from the lives of desperate people. But the government’s clumsy strategy of punishing refugees has failed, and it’s not good enough to say the French need to do more to stop people crossing. The current policy is just not working. The best way to put smugglers out of business is to create safe routes. Allow families to reunite. Introduce humanitarian visas. Protect child refugees at risk of exploitation. Open the Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme while there’s still time.
We hoped we would never see this day. We urge the government to rethink its plan to criminalise refugees through the Nationality and Borders Bill, and instead live up to its responsibilities to work with the global community towards a refugee policy that means this tragedy is never repeated.”