Migrant Crisis: Problems for UK Border force and possible solutions

8 August 2020, 19:28

A Border Force vessel brings a group of people thought to be migrants into the port city of Dover, England, from small boats
A Border Force vessel brings a group of people thought to be migrants into the port city of Dover, England, from small boats. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The Home Office has recorded record numbers of migrants coming to British shores, here's everything you need to know.

After a week of record numbers of migrants hitting British shores with the Ministry of Defence saying it has received a formal request from the Home Office to support UK Border Force in the Dover Straits, where migrants have been attempting to enter the UK.

In a statement, the MoD said: "We are assessing the requirement using the formal Military Aid to the Civilian Authorities process and are working hard to identify how we can most effectively assist.

"As ever the MoD will do all it can to support HMG requirements."

A total of 146 migrants arrived in the UK on Friday aboard 17 boats, the Home Office confirmed on Saturday evening.

The updated figure takes into account several incidents that were still ongoing yesterday afternoon.

Figures for how many migrants reached the UK on Saturday have not yet been made available.

LBC takes a look at the problems and possible solutions.

- Problems

Criminal gangs of people smugglers

The Government has condemned criminal gangs which exploit migrants by offering to get them across the Channel to the UK in small boats for large sums of money.

A series of investigations has brought some people smugglers to justice already, but more are still operating and law enforcement bodies continue to try to crack down on their activities.

Laws

The UK and French governments have been embroiled in a row over the interpretation of maritime law and what this means for action on crossings.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has been open about her frustrations with her French counterparts, saying there are "serious legislative, legal and operational barriers", and calling for co-operation from ministers on the continent.

Current legal obligations mean Border Force vessels can only carry out search and rescue missions and, once on board, migrants can claim asylum in the UK.

Resources

Border Force only has a limited number of cutters - the vessels it uses to intercept migrants and bring them to shore.

Medical checks need to be carried out on the migrants and then they need to be escorted from the area, normally by coach, to be questioned by officials and provided with accommodation while their asylum claims - if made - are handled.

When a surge of crossings happen all at once, Border Force, lifeguard and coastguard teams are overwhelmed and cannot address all the incidents at the same time.

Numbers

The true scale of the crisis is still largely unknown because information published by the Home Office is limited.

The Commons Home Affairs Committee has now launched an inquiry into the soaring numbers.

Conflict

Charities say the majority of migrants are seeking asylum in the UK having fled conflict and are trying to keep themselves and their families safe.

Many met by LBC in migrant camps near Calais in northern France described their escape from war-torn countries and why they want to settle and work in Britain.

The UK Government says migrants claim asylum in the first safe country they arrive in, like France or other parts of Europe.

But critics and campaigners have described how French authorities - who routinely evict migrants from camps with nowhere to go - do not offer them the legal support they need.

As a country, the UK should consider offering more aid or taking a stand against arms in countries where conflict is taking place to try to prevent the displacement of migrants, some say.

Solutions
Navy

Calling in the Royal Navy appears to be the latest option being considered.

There is speculation that officials are in discussions on how resources could be used to bolster Border Force operations and potentially prevent the crossings taking place.

But there has been criticism of the idea, with some saying that because of the existing laws, any role the navy could play would be limited to the same as the Border Force cutters currently being used.

Treaty

Changes to the law and entering into a bilateral agreement with France to address the current situation may be the only way to tackle the crisis, according to some.

This would ensure any vessel picking up migrants would be able to return them to the port from which they departed, and meet obligations to prevent loss of life in the Channel.

Safe routes

Human rights and asylum charities have been repeatedly calling for "safe and legal routes" to be made available to stop the crossings in their tracks.

This would allow migrants to claim asylum in France for the UK and for this to be determined before they cross the Channel, they say.

Home Office officials have claimed "activist lawyers" were frustrating efforts to send migrants back to France with "vexatious claims", although they have so far been unable to provide examples of this problem.

They also hit out at "inflexible and rigid" asylum regulations that they say are "not fit for purpose".

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