Blame game after asylum seekers perish at sea

November 26, 2021 - 18:45

TEHRAN - Soon after at least 27 people, including a number of pregnant women and three children drowned to death trying to cross the Channel in an inflatable dinghy; instead of focusing on the root cause of this problem, British and French leaders have traded accusations on who is to blame for what is the deadliest incident since the current migration crisis to Europe began.

Thirty-four people were reported to have been on the boat when it sank on Wednesday, leading to the International Organization for Migration labelling it as the biggest single loss of life in the Channel since the IOM began collecting data in 2014. Two of the survivors are in intensive care.

The Channel is known to have very strong currents and human traffickers typically overload the dinghies, leaving desperate families barely afloat and at the mercy of the waves as they try to cross from one country to another via the sea. One Afghan refugee says he paid 2,500 euros for a place in a dinghy.

“How many tragedies like this must we see before the government fundamentally changes its approach.” Says Enver Solomon.The British prime minister has set out a five-point plan on how to handle the crisis which includes a renewal of calls for France to agree to joint patrols by the two country’s police forces along the French side of the Channel coast (this is something Paris has previously rejected citing concerns about the implications for France’s national sovereignty.)
and denounced France over Wednesday’s incident saying it highlighted how efforts by French authorities to patrol their beaches “haven’t been enough.”

Boris Johnson says, “we’ve had difficulties persuading some of our partners, particularly the French, to do things in a way that we think the situation deserves.”

According to Elysee, in an earlier phone call with Johnson, French president Emmanuel Macron stressed “the shared responsibility” of France and the UK, and told Johnson he expected full cooperation and that the situation would not be used “for political purposes.” The French government accuses Britain of a lack of action against traffickers and businesses that employ undocumented refugees.

However, in response to Johnson’s public letter, France has told the British Home Secretary, Priti Patel, she was “no longer invited” to Paris for emergency talks among regional countries to discuss the crisis. Macron has also attacked Johnson saying: "I spoke two days ago with Prime Minster Johnson in a serious way... I am surprised by methods when they are not serious. We do not communicate from one leader to another on these issues by tweets and letters that we make public. We are not whistleblowers." A French government spokesman then accused Johnson of saying different things in his conversation with Macron and in the letter; adding: "We are sick of double-speak."

Some analysts say Johnson’s letter was directed more towards his own Conservative party, some of whom have started to question his leadership following a recently strange speech Johnson gave that went viral. The UK insists the letter was sincere and meant for constructive action.

The issue of asylum seekers has been used regularly by leaders, on both sides, for political reasons such as pushing for an anti-migration policy during an election season to win more votes among a public that has seen waves of refugees coming in seeking asylum.

The French interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, called on the UK to coordinate saying “the response must come from Great Britain.” He says 34 people are believed to have been on the rubber dinghy before it sank and it was not clear what country the victims originally came from. Four suspected traffickers have been arrested, two of whom later appeared in court, he said. A local prosecutor says 17 men, seven women and three presumed minors are known to have died. Efforts to identify the victims were underway.

French media reports have cited the mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, as saying it was the British who are to blame and called on Johnson to “face up to his responsibilities.” She has been quoted as saying “the British government is to blame. I believe that Boris Johnson has, for the past year-and-a-half, cynically chosen to blame France.”

The British parliament has held a debate that focused on “the numbers of migrants arriving in the United Kingdom illegally by boat.” Addressing Parliament, the British Home Secretary did not suggest any changes to the British immigration system. Instead, she did not rule out tough new tactics to push the boats back to France.

Refugee charities are calling on the British government to work on saving lives instead by opening safe routes for asylum seekers to apply to come to the UK without taking to the sea. The chief executive of the UK Refugee Council, Enver Solomon said: “How many tragedies like this must we see before the government fundamentally changes its approach.”

“Every day, people are forced to flee their homes through no fault of their own. Now is the time to end the cruel and ineffective tactic of seeking to punish or push away those who try and find safety in our country.”

An emergency search took place at about 2 pm on Wednesday when a fishing boat sounded the alarm after spotting several people at sea off the coast of France. Charles Devos, a regional manager of the lifeboat association in Calais, says that when he arrived on the scene “it was a bit like the film Titanic when you saw all these people plunged into the water, drowning.”

Aid groups say that most refugees who come to Europe remain on the continent, but a minority tries to reach Britain because they speak English.
The number of asylum applications to Britain is relatively small in comparison with the numbers received by countries of similar size in Europe.

The latest deaths follow others reported in the Channel in recent weeks, amid a record number of people attempting the crossing. On 11 November, a total of 1,185 people arrived in England by boat, the most in a single day. According to official figures, more than 25,700 people have made the dangerous journey to the UK in small boats this year. That is a staggering three times the total for the whole of 2020.

Essentially, nearly three times as many refugees have crossed by sea this year compared with last year. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has called for urgent action, saying an ever-increasing number of people are fleeing increasing poverty in countries such as Afghanistan.

It was widely expected that the number of crossings in the Channel to decrease in the winter. Instead, bigger boats have been used to bring people to the UK in greater numbers.

As the French and the British spar with each other, it’s worthy to note the chaotic U.S. led evacuation from Afghanistan and Washington later freezing the country’s assets has led to an alarming rise in poverty across the country. That in turn triggered a wave of exodus from Afghanistan.

But this is just one “migration” crisis in the longer chain of “migration” crises over the past several decades. Experts say what lies at the heart of these crises is Western powers militarily interfering or invading or occupying countries in West Asia and Africa. When you invade a country; technically there is no right to complain or level accusations for a crisis you initiated. Should the West leave other countries alone, pregnant women will not risk the lives of their unborn babies in a rubber dinghy trying to cross The Channel at the start of the winter season.

The same can be said with Migration caravans from Latin America trying to enter the United States. If there is spare money to invade a country why not invest that in countries where poverty was driven as a result of Western sanctions or war. Maybe that will stem the flow of “migrants” from even thinking about reaching the U.S. or Europe; a land where they are foreigners and get lost. Typically and logically, “migrants” would rather just sit at home, drink the tea of their own choice; if the issue is given real honest reflection.

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