The issue of migrants crossing borders and falling prey to organised crime gangs has reached record levels, causing widespread concern. Dr Nooralhaq Nasimi’s personal account of his journey fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan with his family to the UK, highlights the plight of many other vulnerable migrants. This year alone, 8,452 migrants have arrived in the UK from all over the world, which is more than last year’s total of 8,410. A group of 50 refugees landed in Dungeness on one boat, which is not an unusual occurrence, as smugglers try to make as much money as possible from desperate people. Despite concerns that only wealthy migrants can seek asylum, the number of people on boats is increasing, not the number of boats, due to the Covid-19 pandemic’s restrictions.
The government’s response to this issue is causing political division. Cabinet ministers predict that more people will attempt the dangerous journey in calmer weather, breaking previous records. In contrast, the Prime Minister is working closely with the Home Office, and the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, is angry and has called the surge in refugees coming over an “unacceptable problem”. The UK’s Nationality and Borders Bill, which has passed its second reading, is introducing a criminal offence for arriving in the UK without permission and longer maximum sentences for those who come here illegally. It also proposes sending asylum seekers overseas for processing, even if no country has agreed to accept them.
The increasing number of migrants crossing borders to seek asylum, often falling prey to organised crime gangs, is a significant concern. However, these numbers must be seen in a global and historical context, with the UK receiving a third of the number of asylum seekers compared to France in 2019. Closing down some routes will not deter desperate migrants, as demonstrated by the rise in the number of people using small boats to cross borders. The government’s hard-line approach to address this issue is causing political division, with the Nationality and Borders Bill being proposed. However, it is crucial to ensure that the human rights of vulnerable migrants are protected, and that asylum seekers are not criminalized for their irregular means of seeking asylum, which has been established as a legal right after the Second World War.