The tragedy in the English Channel is the worst humanitarian disaster connected to Channel crossings in recent times. Those who died were taking the only choice open to them to seek safety. Behind these numbers are people, who have parents, children, friends and family who are mourning their loved ones.
This tragedy should never have happened would not have happened if there had been safe and legal routes to seek protection open to them. Our government should take responsibility for this. No one makes a choice to risk their life in the world’s busiest shipping lane in a flimsy dinghy if there is another option.
There will be much speculation in the press, fuelled by the media and our UK Government, placing the blame on those fleeing for safety, when they should be looking at the role current policy played in this and engaging with our neighbours in Europe to find a better, safer way. Our Government have closed down safe routes to seek protection, such as family reunion and the Dubs Amendment, which leads to this ongoing, life-threatening situation where many people fleeing war or brutal dictatorships can only physically touch UK soil by putting their lives at risk to get here.
The time to change this inhumane system, which threatens human life, is long overdue. Our Government need to take action now, to value and preserve human life and honour the commitments our country made in the Refugee Convention to offer protection. The media also need to take a long, hard look at the way they report these tragedies and remember they are talking about human beings, lives being lost and families being devastated.
We all want to see an end to people smugglers profiteering from the lives of those desperate to find safety. The current system leaves no choice. It punishes refugees and is proven to have failed. It’s not good enough to say that France needs to do more to stop people crossing. 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 all hoped we would never see this day. We urge our government to immediately withdraw and 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 and that the UK offers sanctuary to those who seek our protection – something which the majority of people in the UK feel is the right and humanitarian thing to do.