Country Closed Down,

Borders Remain Open

By Benjamin Loughnane

 

The United Kingdom is in lockdown, and yet our borders remain open.  We have been told to stay in our homes and to only make necessary trips, with strict rules about what we can do and how. All the while thousands are entering the country illegally, posing a risk not only to border security and the rule of law, but also to public health.  In fact, it was only recently and due to considerable public outrage that the government finally elected to mandatory quarantine for those entering the country illegally. 

A change of policy is urgently required to deal with illegal Channel crossings. Nearly 4,000 people have come to the UK via such crossings since 2018.  These trips are perilous and should not be encouraged. Despite this, the government fail to disincentivise these trips. A lack of enforcement combined with an easily abused asylum system has made these trips an attractive prospect.  Human traffickers take advantage of the UK’s inefficiency and capitalise on our insufficient response to illegal immigration. 

This is not to say that legitimate refugees should be refused asylum, but that many of these are not legitimate refugees. That is those who flee danger and claim asylum in the first safe country they arrive in.  Those coming into the UK from France and Belgium do not fit that bill, they are not fleeing dangerous countries. They will have passed through a number of safe countries to reach Britain – this is called Asylum Shopping, and the government must discourage it. Yet for every fifty that arrive, only three are returned.  Such figures make good marketing material for traffickers in convincing people to make these dangerous and illegal trips.

The UK government does little to discourage these crossings which, besides being a breach of the country’s laws and borders, pose a perilous danger to those making the crossings.  In order to disincentivise these crossings, the government must crack down on them.  It is time to get tough. 

According to the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, the UK’s borders are “resourced to fail.” The government can start here: let’s see real investment and give our Border Force all the support it needs to keep us safe. Likewise, key policy changes are required to ensure that we are handling cases appropriately. The criteria for asylum grants must be tightened to prioritise those in genuine need. The government must increase removals of those not granted asylum, which have declined steadily since 2006.  Finally, the government must make it clear that all those coming illegally to the UK who have no right to be here will be removed swiftly.  In this way we might finally get a grip on the abuses of our asylum system.

Our policies should aim to remove any incentive to make these journeys in the first place. In doing so we will not only secure our borders, but we will save lives and help tackle the blight of human trafficking, a multi-million pound industry.  Those who encourage these journeys and in doing so imperil those who make them are no humanitarians – it is grossly irresponsible to do so.

Over a thousand people have made such crossings into the UK since the beginning of lockdown – and that is just the ones we know of.  We do not know how many more may have slipped in under the radar. Even those we managed to intercept in this period have faced no quarantine, making them potential spreaders of the virus.  With Covid-19 outbreaks having occurred in the Calais camp and in UK detention centres, there is a very real risk that this continued illegal influx is endangering British lives. Not only that, but it is a slap in the face for the millions of Brits who have at great cost stayed at home in order to contain the virus.

A country which cannot control its borders has no chance of containing a deadly virus.To ameliorate the effects of this pandemic it is crucial that we secure the borders before it is too late.

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