Hot weather brings record number of Channel migrants to UK

In this file photo taken on September 1, 2020, migrants in a dinghy sail through the English Channel to the south coast of England after crossing from France. / Glyn Kirk / AFP

In this file photo taken on September 1, 2020, migrants in a dinghy sail through the English Channel to the south coast of England after crossing from France. / Glyn Kirk / AFP

Records are being set in the English Channel, with at least 430 migrants crossing the busy seaway between France and England on Monday. About 241 people landed on Sunday.

Figures like these are the backdrop to a confused and increasingly heated debate around the UK Home Office’s Nationality and Borders Bill, which got its second reading in the UK Parliament on Tuesday.

These groups of asylum seekers are believed to take advantage of the current hot weather conditions. Many of them are women and children, they are rallied by the ruthless criminal gangs operating all over the French coast and sent in tiny boats to make the dangerous crossing.

The previous record for arrivals was set last September at 241 arrivals in one day.

How much of a problem is this for the UK government?

These numbers suggest that this is a growing problem, but it is not necessarily so. Illegal immigration to the UK is now a fraction of what it was 10 years ago.

However, at a cost of $ 761.3 million in 2020, the Home Office treatment system has been criticized for its efficiency. The 2020 backlog of people awaiting processing of their application is 109,000, of which 79,000 have been active for more than a year.

Very few of these people arrived here by boat. In 2021, only 8,417 crossed the Channel. This year so far 6,000 people have made the trip.

What are the UK government’s proposals?

The numbers are increasing, yes, but they are only a small fraction of the big picture. The government’s new bill seeks to make it a criminal offense to enter the UK without prior permission, punishable by up to four years in prison.

It also introduces a maximum life sentence for those convicted of human trafficking, a new age assessment to identify adult migrants posing as children and new powers for UK border forces. stop and hijack ships suspected of carrying illegal migrants.

Opponents of the bill say it turns victims into criminals and almost certainly violates the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951 and the Human Rights Act of 1998.

Key points of the Nationality and Borders Bill:

• Increase the penalty for illegal entry from six months to four years imprisonment and introduce life sentences for smugglers.

• Stop and divert ships suspected of carrying illegal migrants and return them to where their sea journey to the UK began.

• Increase the sentence for foreign offenders returning to the UK from six months to five years imprisonment.

• Implement an electronic travel authorization system, similar to the US ESTA program, to block the entry of those posing a threat to the UK.

Part of the UK dilemma concerns Brexit. As a former member, the UK is no longer part of the wider EU framework for refugee and asylum cooperation.

The Home Office has ambitions to set up treatment centers outside the UK similar to those used in Australia. It will now have to look further than France or Spain.

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