When you live in a safe and comfortable home, it’s easy to take it for granted—especially if you’re craving a holiday or simply a change of scenery after spending more time home than usual this year. But for those fleeing war, climate change, torture or other brutal situations, leaving home hasn’t been a choice taken lightly. War, persecution, and the effects of climate change don’t pause for a pandemic.
Recently, there’s been a spotlight on a particular group of people searching for a safe place to call home: those crossing the English Channel on small, flimsy, and often overcrowded boats to seek sanctuary in the UK. They are men, women, and children—everyday people like you and me—who have the right to seek a safer life. And because they have no other choice, they must risk their lives for it.
We need to show empathy and offer a humanitarian alternative to help people reach safety, rather than policies that effectively slam shut the doors to people who need help.
We believe is the current response is unbearably inhumane and are standing with the experts at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and Refugee Action to call for safe and legal routes for people seeking safety in order to prevent these dangerous journeys. Every single person crossing the Channel is a human being with a right to seek safety—and a Refugee Convention that backs up that right. Seeking sanctuary isn’t a crime. The few desperate men, women, and children on those boats aren’t a “threat,” or “illegal,” or the cause of a “crisis.” The only difference between us and them is where we happened to be born—and luck.
People Seeking Asylum Have No Other Options
People are crossing the Channel because they’re desperate. And that makes sense, as they come from some of the most chaotic and war-torn areas of the world—Yemen, Eritrea, Chad, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and Iraq. They have no homes left to go back to.
It’s Not a Crime to Leave France
When people leave France to cross the Channel, they do so in desperation, and due to reasons such as fear of exploitation or trafficking, the threat of police brutality or simply wanting to reach their family already in the UK. Also, according to the UN Refugee Convention, there is no rule forcing refugees to claim asylum in one country over another, nor do people have to stay in the first so-called “safe” country they reach. UK case law supports this interpretation so people have every right to claim asylum in the UK having come via France.
You Must Be Physically Present in the UK to Apply for Asylum
The only way to claim asylum in the UK is in person—so people must arrive on UK soil before having their claims heard. Getting here is dangerous, and once you get here, the UK’s hostile environment policies ensure that surviving here is no holiday either.
There is No Other Route
Resettlement schemes enable some of the most vulnerable people to be relocated from camps to other countries. But the UK resettlement scheme has been frozen since March, leaving people with no other “legal” option to get to the UK. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: human beings can’t be illegal. And it’s inhumane to force people to choose between a perilous journey and their right to claim asylum here.
It’s Time for the UK to Do Its Part
The vast majority of people who are refugees are hosted in neighbouring countries to those they are fleeing. For example, there are 3.6 million refugees in Turkey, versus just over 125,000 in the UK. And even compared to other European countries, like Spain, France, Germany and Greece, the UK has taken only a small percentage of refugees.
We Need Safe and Legal Routes to the UK
We know from our friends at Refugee Action that if the Government is serious about saving lives, reducing the number of dangerous journeys and stopping criminal traffickers, then it needs urgent action to ensure safer, legal routes of entry to the UK for people seeking safety. Making the crossing more dangerous and more difficult by stepping up patrolling isn’t the answer.
The Policies we’re Calling for
At Ben & Jerry’s we’re standing with our partners at JCWI and Refugee Action and more than 100 civil society groups, religious organisations, and Windrush survivors to demand safe and legal routes for people seeking safety. And here’s some specific policy examples of the safe and legal routes we’re calling on our Government to implement:
- Make humanitarian visas easier to get, and permit people with family members already living in the UK to move here.
- Reopen The Dubs Amendment to relocate and settle unaccompanied children, removing them from perilous living situations in makeshift and official camps
- Expand family reunification rules
- New and expanded resettlement programs like the Syrian Resettlement Programme (VPRS) which was closed in March but enables newcomers to start a new life on UK soil.
Stand Up for A Future Where Everyone is Treated with Humanity
Everyone has a right to a life lived in safety, and with dignity. We must embrace our shared humanity to help those who need it. Lend your voice. Take action now and demand safe and legal routes to the UK.
And most of all, remember that no human is illegal.
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