London – At least 430 migrants and asylum seekers crossed the Channel to reach the UK on Monday, the highest number on record to make the dangerous journey from Europe, according to reports. The record number of daily crossings came as UK lawmakers debated an immigration bill that would make attempting to cross – even to make a legitimate asylum claim – a felony.
the, proposed by the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and currently under consideration by parliamentarians, would continue to grant access to the British asylum system to those making authorized arrivals, for example on a plane equipped with a travel visa. But anyone attempting to make an unauthorized entry into the UK, for example crossing the Channel on a small boat, would not be eligible for asylum in Britain, could be sent for treatment to a “safe third country. “and could face four years in prison.
Nearly 8,000 people have reached the UK in small boats so far this year, most of them disembarking along the south coast of England, according to the BBC.
The Refugee Council, a UK charity that works with asylum seekers and refugees, says between 9,000 and 21,600 people who currently qualify for refugee status would no longer qualify if the law is passed.
“What the UK has tried to do is discourage people from entering the UK to seek asylum,” Refugee Council advocacy officer Andy Hewett told CBS News. “If all the other countries of the world, at least if all the other Western countries of the world, followed suit with similar legislation, then that completely undermines the 1951 Refugee Convention, the whole notion of sharing of responsibilities and our obligations under the convention that we should recognize as those in need of protection.
Hewett said the bill would create a two-tier system, in which some pre-authorized asylum seekers would have access to the refugee system while others who take unauthorized travel to Britain would not. .
“The new Nationality and Borders Bill provides for stiff penalties for refugees who spontaneously arrive in the UK,” the United Nations refugee agency in the UK said on Twitter. “The UK risks violating commitments under the Refugee Convention which clearly protect the universal right to seek asylum and for refugees to access basic rights.”
“There is an unacceptable increase in dangerous small boat crossings across the Channel due to an increase in illegal migration across Europe,” the UK Home Office said in a statement. “People should seek asylum in the first safe country they reach and not risk their lives making these dangerous crossings. We continue to prosecute the criminals behind these illegal crossings.”
“Don’t stop moving until you feel safe”
Dr Waheed Arian, a doctor who came to Britain as a refugee and worked on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, published an open letter on Tuesday opposing the bill.
“Under the plans proposed by this government, I would not have had the chance to become an NHS doctor, let alone learn English or study medicine at the University of Cambridge. been classified as an “illegal arrival”, with no access to the asylum system, prosecuted for breaking the law and summarily expelled from the country, “Arian wrote.
He calls on UK lawmakers to vote against the legislation.
“A person fleeing war or persecution will be criminalized if their arrival is not pre-authorized through, for example, a resettlement program. Most people who flee for their lives do not have the “luxury” of seeking pre-approval. there was no “legal” escape route available to me. I know too well that when your life is in danger you just don’t stop moving until you feel safe, ”Arian wrote.
Echoes of old American politics
The bill echoes U.S. immigration policy under former President Trump, which sought to restrict asylum eligibility for those arriving at the border with Mexico.
The Trump administration has attempted to disqualify people who entered the United States without permission to seek asylum, and it also instituted a short-lived “zero tolerance” policy under which it prosecuted them criminally. people entered without authorization. If the parents received criminal charges, they were separated from their children. A court overturned the first part of the policy, while the latest practice, which led to the separation of thousands of migrant families, was dropped following a public outcry.
Under Mr. Trump, the United States also negotiated “safe third country” agreements with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador with the aim of redirecting asylum seekers to those countries. These agreements were canceled by the Biden administration.
Camilo Montoya-Galvez contributed to this report.