“Without leave to enter”
The Immigration Crisis in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is facing one of the biggest migrant crises of recent times. Thousands of desperate and persevering individuals come to the UK each year with hopes of a better life. Then there is the other side of the coin, the groups who are not permitted to cross that channel, those coming into the country ‘without leave to enter’.
It’s not the safest route to take, but thousands do, every year. The Channel between France and the UK has become the rite of passage for many vulnerable people coming from outside of the EU. It has been argued that in order to reach the UK, one must travel through a safe country, perhaps those coming in feel that the multitude of EU countries they pass through do not provide as much safety, security and leisure as the UK.
It’s been a highly debated issue for many decades, with recent politicians such as Nigel Farage commenting frequently on the crisis, recently interviewing immigration lawyer Ivon Sampson on GB News, where Ivon disagreed with Farage’s assessment of the channel crossings where Mr. Farage had stated that many of the migrants crossing the channel were economic migrants, rather than asylum seekers, with the UK being the ‘holy grail’ for them in terms of work and living conditions. Ivon rebutted the statement by saying that…
… “I deal in facts, as a lawyer” before going on to further state that “two-thirds crossing the Channel are genuine refugees – that is a fact.”
His statement was met not met well, with the crowd jeering and disagreeing with him. That is not surprising, as the UK has seen surges in migrants for many years with numbers of 27,000 illegal immigrants being recorded in 2018, figures from the previous 4 years, with 28 police forces across Britain arresting migrants without leave to enter. Those arrests come from a combination of factors, such as intercepting the migrants in lorries and during raids, and after the migrant has committed a ‘low level crime.’
This undoubtedly puts pressure on the economy. Local communities see an increase in crime, and landlords see more properties ruined by the overcrowding that migrants frequently do to evade detection and live cheaply, sometimes freely. Tory backbencher Philip Hollobone said that “these people should be stopped at the border it shouldn’t be up to the police to arrest them.” There have been multiple calls by MP’s to increase funding to Britain’s borders. Would this resolve the issue though? The seas can only be policed to a certain extent, and denying a boat of migrants safe passage to the UK would begin to encroach on some very uneven moral grounds. The Home Office has reasserted that the government is in a position to deal with the immigration crisis, further stating the crisis can have a detrimental impact on the local communities.
The Channel is not the only means to enter the UK. Organized crime syndicates will be making money on shipping migrants on lorries, on planes and through a variety of other means. Will the government fund the monitoring of private airfields? Will funding come from an imaginary pot?
The Dublin Convention dictates the processes on how to return asylum seekers to their country of origin and lays out who is responsible for asylum seekers being processed, however the UK it no longer a part of this deal. Individuals seeking to return to their own countries, for whatever reason within reason, are able to go and fill out an online form for a ‘voluntary return.’ This allows migrants the chance to gain a passport and travel documents and pay for travel tickets, if you arrived in the UK without anything, against your will, then this might be a suitable option.
However, it misses one huge point, that migrants may not have access to the internet and may be unable to understand how to go about accessing this service, which is available for illegal immigrants. It provides a safe passage back for to their home country, but it doesn’t deal with the issues and only raises more questions on how this is going to work effectively on a large scale and how it can be enforced. The scheme is also not available to those being investigated by the police or who have been detained by the Home Office. The scheme offers financial support of up to £3000. Again, who is going to enforce this, the Home Office requires that the individuals need an address in the UK, how can they have an address possibly answer this is they are living rough, on the streets? It also requires an email address. I don’t expect many migrants crossing the Channel to have either, and I don’t think many of them will be capable of a) understanding the full extent of the UK system or b) understanding the English language. This puts them at a huge disadvantage, especially if they are genuine asylum seekers. Referring back to Farage’s point that they are economic migrants, that might add weight to the argument that they have become semi-fluent in English before they embarked on their expensive boat crossing. This would certainly aid them in returning to their home countries. But we don’t know for sure how many migrants have issues with accessing government or local services. The scheme ends by saying that the Home Office will contact the migrant within 3 days to confirm receipt of the application.
Not all migrants are illegal and not all have been refused entry. Migrants can come from another country, not being of British of Commonwealth citizenship and according to Sections 3 and 4 of the Immigration Act 1971, an immigration officer may give leave to enter for a limited period with or without certain conditions.
Those conditions being any or all of the following:
- Conditions restricting employment or occupation in the UK;
- Conditions requiring a person to maintain and accommodate themselves and any dependents without recourse to public funds;
- Condition requiring them to register with the police; and
- Conditions restricting his studies within the UK
(The above is not an exact wording).
There are options for migrants genuinely seeking to come to the UK. Why then do so many risk their lives trying to cross a wild, abhorrent section of the Channel? The number of boats containing migrants crossing the Channel in 2018 was reported by the Home Office to be recorded at 562 as attempting to cross, of those, 297 arrived. 144 were reportedly intercepted and returned to France and a further 121 aborted departures from France.
Those figures were significantly increased in 2019. Sky News collated figures of up the 1,456 migrants that had successfully crossed the Channel by small boat, almost 5 times the 2018 figure. Sky News also stated in a 2019 article that ‘just 6% of illegal migrants crossing the Channel since December are deported by UK.’ This came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at the time that the migrants would be sent back, meaning they would not be able to settle in the UK. Then Home Secretary Sajid Javid described the illegal crossings as a “major incident.” The report from the Home Office as concerning to say the least, with “over 85” being sent back in 2019. One migrant, asylum seeker Masoud Mohammadifar came to the UK after being accused of being a spy and was jailed for 6 months. His journey across the Channel was described as…
… “dark and we had nothing to help us find our way in the sea.” He also said that he “just prayed for my life, to Jesus Christ to save us.” It was also suggested that the French police did little to obstruct the migrants from crossing, in line with current reports that the French will refuse to act unless the UK pays them more money to manage the crisis. The UK has already paid tens of millions of pounds to halt the crossings, yet despite scrutiny from MPs and critics alike, this is not value for money.
Jeremy Corbyn, former leader of the Labour party was interviewed back in 2019 as saying that the migrants coming into the UK have come from vulnerable situations, from worn torn countries and that the UK needs to play its part in managing the international migrant crisis, whereas current conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that if you come to the UK illegally, expect to be treated as an illegal immigrant and face the consequences. Two opposing parties, and differing views, yet the crisis remains unchanged, in fact, it has grown worse.
How is the UK handling the record number of migrants in 2021? A record breaking 10,000 have supposedly crossed the Channel in the first six months, according to Sky News. The UK government must also accept an asylum seeker for the duration of their asylum claim, and they have a duty to process that claim, so it comes down in theory to determining whether the migrants crossing the Channel are genuine asylum seekers or mere economic migrants. Contrasting the UKs asylum applications with that of other European Union countries, Germany had in 2020 102,500 applications, Greece had 37,900, yet the UK had only 29,456. What does this tell us about the UK position?
It could suggest that our border enforcement system is merely not working, that our workforce is lacking, and that funding is seriously needed in order to patrol both the Channel and the beaches of Kent. But funding is only one solution. Creating a safe and welcoming application process and one which would enable a wider group of people to come to the UK may potentially offset the numbers who are embarking on an extremely dangerous journey across the Channel. But there is the argument that there is only financial gains to be had if one comes to the UK, and yet, those individuals are supposedly coming in illegally, surely making their own situation more dire. Local authorities and local housing and hotels have frequently been employed in housing the migrants, as we see in the current Afghanistan refugee crisis the system can work for those in genuine need. At the cost of the local economies, and the pockets of the taxpayers. A fine balancing act exists in which there is seemingly a ‘closed mouth’ approach to discussing the issues that are so blatantly in front of us, and yet, being able to talk openly about those issues without fear of persecution.
Current cabinet member, Home Secretary Priti Patel said in an interview on the Andrew Marr show, BBC, that “they are seeing unprecedent numbers of migrants,” and that “there is no magic solution to this,” noting work with shouldering EU countries France and Germany. The 140% increase of crossings since 2020, as a result of generally increasing migration numbers cannot, according to Priti Patel, be fixed with “short term solutions.” The measures of the coast guard are unsatisfactory and yet the government and home department seem reluctant to enforce any meaningful and useful solutions. Priti Patel does stipulate that there is an increased focus on targeting gangs who ship the migrants and intercepting and returning migrants back to France.
Ultimately the weight of the problem will be in the limelight when it suits. Dealing with human beings in a compassionate and understanding way and making sure that potential criminals and economic beneficiaries do not come into the country unchecked, leaves a big hole. That hole I believe cannot be fulfilled. The UK needs to start to respond to the crisis by allowing more time and effort to be allocated to the issues, both of policing the Channel, and catering for those who wash up on our shores. Migrants need to be educated before they reach France, before they pay thousands for the boat ride across the Channel, in order to fully understand the consequences of being an illegal migrant, so that the system can be seen to be deterring individuals, rather than merely ‘turning them back’ or ‘having police arrest them.’ Until the government has fully embraced the situation and accepted that they need to do more, I feel that nothing more will be done.