The issue of refugees crossing the Channel and arriving on English soil is NOT new. Back in May 2002, our public face worked as a reporter for the Folkestone Herald and reported on the same issue. Refugees then were jumping on to or under trains at Frethun and coming to Dollands Moor, or concealing themselves in lorries. Now they’ve moved onto boats, so same story, different mode of transport.
Now for those of you who are not aware, this IS a fact. International law does NOT require asylum seekers to claim asylum in the first safe country they enter. This principle has been recognised in UK case law, and section 31 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 also provides a defence against prosecuting refugees for entering the UK.
Crossing the English Channel in a private boat is NOT illegal. However, one does need to comply with a number of stringent requirements. What IS illegal though is smuggling people into the UK. Many of the people arriving on our shorelines will probably have paid a people-smuggler and they – the smuggler – will most certainly not have meet or fulfilled the stringent requirements for a legal crossing.
Moving on, some of those travelling to our shorelines will have been brought by smugglers from countries such as Iran or Iraq. They would NOT have clue which European countries they have passed through. It will be the smugglers, not the refugees, determining the final destination. It’s clear from news reports on TV, radio and online, those who have spent time in France and have a specific plan to get to the UK, more likely than not they have family or community links or speak English. The asylum system in France is NOT a friendly and conducive environment, quite the opposite. Just last month the European court of human rights condemned France for inhuman living conditions for asylum seekers.
We here lots of numbers bandied around by the likes of, Simon Jones from BBC South East, and PA Media, about the number of people arriving in boats on our shoreline.
The Home Office for those of you who are NOT aware have a flagging system on its internal systems to identify who has arrived in a small boat on the Channel, but, yes there’s always a but, the Home Office have confirmed via email to the Shepway Vox Team, they do NOT publish annual or quarterly data on this. Figures released by the Home Office are a snapshot and do NOT provide the full statistical picture.
At present the UK can return people to France or any other European country if they spent time there prior to arriving in the UK. This is known as the Dublin regulation. However, no agreement on this issue has been drawn up between the UK and EU, so unless or until a replacement agreement is put in place the UK will no longer be able to remove people who arrive from northern France at the end of the Brexit transition period.
Many of the arguments, discussions and debates on social media, TV, radio and online are not new. The people of our district were having them eighteen years ago. Now though, the language which frames these arguments, debates, in our opinion, causes more harm than good.
The Shepway Vox Team
The Velvet Voices of Dissent