On the concerns about refugees crossing the English Channel to Britain and why they need to be addressed and refuted, not just for the refugees but also for the native citizens.


First published in August 2020.


No, it isn’t the heat that is making me more short tempered than usual today. It is the complete disregard for refugees’ lives that is being demonstrated as politicians and pundits pander to the very worst aspects of nationalistic and xenophobic behaviours.

There are reasons why some people may be concerned about refugees crossing, and many of them can be resolved with evidence to combat years of false information. It is essential that the debate doesn’t just pander to those whose views are purely racist though, and that is how it is going.

Front page of the Daily Mail, 7 August 2020

It is not enough, as I often do, to just rant about the way in which asylum seekers are treated and reported on, and how it helps to reinforce the narrative put forward by the likes of Nigel Farage that they are a “threat” without also providing concrete policy alternatives when all people see in the news is that asylum seekers are landing on the shores, without any context as to why it opens the door for the Farage’s and Migration Watch’s of the world to spin it into some big scary thing.

Particularly if you are struggling yourself – something which at the moment is even more exacerbated for many by the pandemic – and see rough sleepers, you may wonder why people from outside the country should get support. It is easy for some to believe the “economic migrants” line.

First off, asylum seekers aren’t coming to take advantage of benefits or steal jobs. They receive £37.75 per week and are denied the right to work while their applications are heard.

This does force some of them into the black and grey economies, as they try to survive. This can then be spun by those with their own agenda into making out that ‘refugees are criminals’. Rather than looking at the reason why someone would work in the grey economy, they are automatically vilified for doing so.

Likewise, why are people risking the dangerous crossing from France when they could seek asylum there? Well, there are many reasons, namely that as much as you hear about UK being racist, it isn’t actually as racist as many other developed countries, particularly in the EU.

As much as you hear about UK being racist, it isn’t actually as racist as many other developed countries. / Flickr – Ilias Bartolini

Only last month France was found guilty in the European Court of Human Rights for breaching refugees’ rights and forcing them to sleep rough without any support. In France, Italy, Greece, and other countries refugees often face being attacked by the police. So, safety isn’t as clear as it seems.

Why should that make a difference to someone who is struggling day to day and risks, or may even be, having to sleep rough themselves in the country they were born in though? Because all of this is linked and can be resolved together.

It costs roughly £100 per day to hold someone in immigration detention, with the mean average detention period being 24 days, so £2,400 per person. Overall immigration enforcement costs about £392 million per year, and that amount will increase after December.

The vast majority of claims turn out to be successful, either initially or on appeal. So we are talking about people with a legitimate right to seek safety and be granted asylum. We are also talking about a lot of wasted money in detaining them in the first place though.

Opening up safe routes and making the asylum system more accessible would help speed up claims and be less costly. / Flickr – Global Justice Now

Now, you will see people like myself talking about opening up safe routes and making the asylum system more accessible. This helps speed up claims, so less cost. It also ensures that more claims can be heard without people being forced to become undocumented to survive.

So you are already reducing the costs involved in immigration enforcement, reducing the number of people who have to live in an undocumented status and ensuring that you can be certain who is or is not genuinely eligible for asylum.

Here is where the issues of poverty here and the need to support refugees become linked. You take those savings and invest them into communities to develop them in parallel.

So both the local community and refugees benefit.

We are talking about tens of millions of pounds which can be invested in struggling communities to ensure that we combat poverty, rough sleeping, etc, while also providing safety for some of the most vulnerable people in the world who are fleeing unimaginable horrors.

The alternative is to increase the costs of immigration enforcement, which has already been shown to have little to no effect on the number of people crossing because when you have lost everything and just need safety your options are limited.

Money needs to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is liable to mean an increased pressure on already deprived areas, making them more susceptible to genuine racists who try and shift blame for social ills onto refugees and other migrants instead of government policies.

There is a way to support everyone, but it needs to start with opening those safe routes, reducing restrictions on asylum seekers – not increasing them, and putting that money back into those communities which need it most to benefit everyone.

There is a way to support everyone. / Needpix

Have you ever noticed that the really big names in the anti-refugee debate, like those already mentioned, rarely seem to be the ones struggling? It is because they are using “economic concerns” as a smokescreen for flat out racism. Most people aren’t racist like that though.

Oh, people may have racists tendencies. I would argue that all of us have some form of ‘ism’ or bigotry in us, something where we make comments which we really shouldn’t if we reflected how they might hurt others. That doesn’t make someone far-right though. What does though, is when you ignore the evidence and are prepared to actually increase the economic, and, yes, related and subsequent social, problems just because you want to see someone from abroad suffer more.

Instead of blaming refugees for job loses, or lack of money in the country, why don’t we work together to hold those who actually have some power over those things to make it better for all, and stop being taken in by charlatans who do have a racist agenda?

Another quick thing to bring to the discussion... You know those stories about how refugees are only coming to rape and murder? Yeah, they are not true. Of course some people commit crimes, but refugees are statistically less likely to commit them than any other group. It is not difficult to see why either. Unless you are forced into working in the grey or black economy as a means to survive, having risked yours, and potentially your family’s lives to reach a place of safety, you aren’t going to jeopardise that.🔷


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[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 8 August 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected, and published with the author’s consent. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Shutterstock/Andrea Izzotti.)

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