Border controls are driving more desperate people to risk their lives at sea. Dozens of migrants tried to reach Britain by boat last week—and the worst mass drownings in a year took place in the Mediterranean.
A group of 20 people—18 Albanians, including two children, and two British people—were rescued off the Kent coast last Saturday night. Their inflatable boat had started to sink.
They were detained by the border force at Dover. A Home Office spokesperson told Socialist Worker, “Immigration enforcement will check their documentation, and if they have entered illegally we would seek to remove them as quickly as possible.”
He also pointed out that the new Immigration Act has granted the border force extra powers to stop, board, divert or detain boats officials suspect of carrying migrants.
Another 17 Albanians were arrested last week after arriving on a catamaran boat in West Sussex.
Nine people face trial after police in the Netherlands intercepted a boat of 26 people with a map suggesting they would sail to Norfolk last year. They were mostly Vietnamese and Albanian.
Many of those seeking asylum in Britain are from Albania, yet only one in seven are granted it. Home Office guidance recognises they may be in danger in Albania—but suggests they simply move to a different part of the small country.
The right wing media stoked panic about an “invasion”.
Damian Collins, Tory MP for Folkestone and Hythe, pledged an even tougher crackdown on borders—supposedly to save lives.
“It is incredibly dangerous and there is every likelihood that people will lose their lives,” he said.
“We need to send a clear message that if people do try to come to Britain in this way they will be detected and returned… and that we will take firm action against those who assist them.”
But no one puts their life into the hands of a flimsy boat or unscrupulous traffickers if they have an alternative.
Each time one migration route is cut off it pushes people to more dangerous routes.
An Afghan refugee aged 25 was killed after being run over by a lorry on the motorway in Calais in the early hours of last Saturday morning. It’s at least the sixth death at Britain’s border in 2016 alone.
He was killed fleeing the chaos left by Britain and its allies’ war—and forced by Britain’s border controls to risk his life by trying to jump aboard a lorry.
The situation in the Mediterranean is even worse.
People continue to die crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece.
But the European Union (EU) and Nato clampdown there has driven more people to the longer and more dangerous crossing from Libya to Italy.
Based on survivor reports from three shipwrecks there last week, the United Nations estimated 700 people had drowned. The charity Doctors Without Borders estimated 900.
Around 14,000 people were rescued on the crossing from Libya in the busiest—and deadliest—week for over a year.
The clampdown is getting worse. The 8,000 refugees evacuated from the Idomeni camp in northern Greece last week have now been crammed into unventilated warehouses.
The only way to stop the carnage is to open the borders and grant safe passage—something the Tories and the EU are determined to avoid.
‘We’ll show what Tories are doing in Calais’
Anti-racists across Britain are building for a convoy to Calais on Saturday 18 June to stand in solidarity with refugees there. Nearly 200 vehicles are already registered to take part.
Up to 6,000 people are stuck in appalling conditions in Calais.
The Stand Up to Racism (SUTR) group in Norwich is planning a minibus.
Norwich SUTR activist Julie Bremner told Socialist Worker, “Norfolk County Council has said it refuses to take in any of the few refugees David Cameron has agreed can come to Britain.”
SUTR supporters lobbied a meeting of Norfolk County Council on Tuesday.
“There’s an attempt to stir up panic about the people coming across in boats,” said Julie. “We have to turn that around and say we need to help those people.”
Around 50 workers and students from the Social Work Action Network were set to go to Calais on Sunday as part of an international initiative.
Organiser Michael Lavalette told Socialist Worker, “We plan to talk to the refugees and get some real life stories to show the effect of what the Tories are doing. And we’ll work with the organisations that are helping refugees there and need support.
“Many more people wanted to go than we were able to take, so we’re telling all other social workers who wanted to come to join the 18 June convoy instead.”