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  • Chuks Sam Ogbunubi

The Dangerous Channel Crossings

'No one leaves home, unless home is the mouth of a shark.

You have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than land..."

These words in Warsan Shire's poem "Home" are arguably the most important  words that should be in the minds of policy-makers and government officials  uring the formulation and implementation of policies affecting the lives of thousands of asylum-seekers fleeing from persecution and to"supposed safety" in the UK. They should always be in the minds of those who deal directly  with refugees, asylum-seekers and other migrants in Europe and in the UK in particular . Zarah Sultana MP (2020), stated among other things that "The enemy of the working class travels by private jet, not migrant dinghy." She made a very valid argument relating our equal vulnerability to those risking their lives crossing the English Channels via migrant dinghies if we found ourselves in similar situations. She went ahead to urge the government to focus more on creating legal routes by way of humanitarian visas for asylum-seekers and refugees as a way to prevent the unnecessary loss of lives of people attempting to crossover to the UK through the Channels by migrant dinghies.

In Lizzie Dearden(2020), reported that a 16 year old boy drowned in the Channel while trying to crossover to the UK from France and his body was later found in a beach in France. Priti Patel the Home Secretary categorically blamed the death on the "criminal gangs" organising the dinghy migrant travels. Human-rights lawyers disagreed with her saying that safer migrant routes was the solution and that the government's policy on migration was devoid of compassion and humanity.She equally sent a tweet in which she claimed the frustrations the government is facing in deporting failed asylum-seekers was caused by leftist labour minded human-rights lawyers who seek loopholes in the immigration laws to perpetually keep failed asylum-seekers in the UK. On another occasion during an online video conference she claimed that the migrants said they felt France was racist to them hence their preference to risk the Channel journey to the UK, however, she clarified that she did not believe them. Unfortunately, French politicians blamed the death of the teenager to the lack of humanity in the UK's patrol of the Channel.

It is rather interesting to note lately that all the major media houses namely Sky News, BBC etc seem to be focused on reporting incidents of migrants crossing the Channels. In some cases you see the journalists in boats alongside these dinghies with people crossing to the UK. J. Grierson and co(2020) reported that more than 4,000 have crossed the Channel to the UK this year alone, one may begin to wonder the validity of the statistical analytical method used to arrive at these numbers and the need for such media attention in this period of greatest economic recession occasioned by the poor handling of the Pandemic. It equally puts to question the motive behind televising people fleeing in desperation at arguably the most vulnerable moment of  their lives. It appears that the impact of these obviously forced media coverage to their mental health afterwards are ignored. Some may equally argue if these media houses fully comply with the GDPR guidelines of obtaining permission before airing such unsolicited videos. It seems here that the lack of humanity and compassion expressed by human-right lawyers are fully operationalised by these media houses. Other more pressing issues of national interests should not be ignored especially where water border patrol officers are there to deal with issues of migrants crossing the Channel.

The arguments for and against migration are wide and varied and may seem to have no meeting point for agreement however,we have to understand that people are putting their lives at risks and are dying while all these endless arguments carry on. The critical issue at the moment is determining the best possible humane ways out of this life and death situation. Migration has been an essential  part of human existence, it is not criminal and cannot be stopped but so many steps can be made to prevent people from embarking on these dangerous trips. Policy-makers and government officials from various affected countries may need to come together to figure out ways of providing safe passage ways for migrants regardless of the classification of the migration. Many years ago when Europeans embarked on the exploration of the world economic and recreational migration were encouraged and as a result many European colonies were setup in Asia and Africa the citizens of the colonies were forced to be  subjects of alien governments. In more recent years, many western countries supply arms that are  used for war in these countries where the citizens were displaced and have to flee for survival and safety.

The successful crossing over to the UK of these desperate migrants by these dinghies marks the beginning of their endless frustrating in the UK asylum application process designed by default to be hostile and unwelcoming. They are not allowed to work to support themselves or their children, most of the applications are rejected and most unsuccessful applicants are made destitute,homeless, dehumanised and dependent on charity handouts. Their physical and mental health remain on a downward spiral for as long as they remain in and long after they left this UK's worse than a vicious cycle asylum system. The process is fraught with endless delays and deliberate miscommunication and some people are known to have spent as much over 20 years before being granted some sort of leave to remain in the UK. Many commit suicide as a result of the frustrations and disappointments they went through. Libby Brooks(2020) The Guardian article reported the death of Syrian man in Glasgow seeking asylum in the UK. The article expressed concern about the mental health of refugees and asylum-seekers.

In conclusion it has been mutually recognised by the government officials and policy-makers on one hand and the human-right activists on the other hand that there are problems which lead to all these dangerous and risky dinghy migration into the UK, the only noticed difference is on the agreement of the best approach to solving the problem. The government's position seems to be tough talks and calls for strengthening the existing laws for deportation easier and to make the asylum application process more hostile. This approach on its own may only serve the purpose of symptomatic treatment rather than address the causalities. All the human-rights activists are seeking is for the government to take more responsibilities in addressing the causes so as to prevent these dangerous endeavours of dinghy crossing by desperate migrants fleeing to safety. The government are the ones who will eventually decide on the best way forward and can only be guided towards the direction of humanity if the pressure is sustained by the activists. It is imperative that the government engage with various stakeholders and organisations before coming to a reasonably acceptable solution by all. The earlier the government engages the better and more lives could be saved. It is equally important for the big press corporation

to focus on balanced reporting of the situation with a view to influencing the governments decision towards the right direction of compassion, humanity and understanding.

by Chuks Sam Ogbunubi

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