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BOri Johnson’s government urgently needs to develop a new approach to asylum. The deaths of 27 people trying to reach England in a small boat on Wednesday caused a wave of distress. No one wants the English Channel to become a graveyard, and the grieving faces of those interviewed by journalists in northern France in recent days have brought back their sheer despair to millions of Britons.

But unless Mr Johnson and his top colleagues and advisers take the initiative to take a different direction, there is no reason to believe this tragedy will be a turning point. Right now the government appears to be trapped in a trap of its own making, along with the part of the public it took with it when ministers decided to speak out and act harshly on asylum seekers. This is what has led to the shameful situation in which the main response to this week’s tragedy is to blame the French. Government pressure for morally and legally questionable legislation designed to create an even more hostile environment is justified by claims that the numbers of asylum seekers are overwhelming.

It is true that with 23,000 small craft arrivals so far, this year’s total will exceed 8,400 arrivals in 2020. Overall, the 37,562 asylum applications lodged up to September is an increase. . But in the early 2000s, that figure was over 80,000. And several European neighbors of the UK are currently handling similar figures: there have been around 80,000 requests so far this year in Germany, 70,000 in Germany. France and 60,000 arrivals by boat in Italy.

Intercontinental migration and refugees fleeing war and persecution are major global issues that require a common international approach, as Enver Solomon of the Refugee Council said this week. What makes this all the more important is that global warming is expected to increase migration, as parts of the world become warmer and harder to live with. The people who risk their lives to reach the south coast of England come from some of the most troubled countries in the world: Eritrea, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen.

They make the trip they make for a reason: because they have relatives or friends in Britain, or historical ties, or speak English (one of those who reached Kent by boat this week would be an Afghan soldier who worked with British forces). After arriving in the UK, almost two-thirds of those arriving by small boat are allowed to stay.

It is this context that the public needs to understand and that experts are now trying to explain. There is no doubt that, as Conservative Kent MP Damian Collins said on Thursday, some voters find the boats troubling. A government aware of its responsibilities would seek to allay concerns about local pressures on resources (such as housing) and work with partners to find solutions, both to the immediate challenge of those camped in miserable conditions at the borders and to work with partners to find solutions. to broader geopolitical causes. This would include stopping arms sales to Saudi Arabia, to protect Yemen, and reinstating that part of the UK’s global aid budget that has been inexcusably reduced.

Sadly, Mr Johnson and his Home Secretary Priti Patel show no willingness to abandon xenophobic rhetoric. Rather than distance themselves from Nigel Farage and Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh for cruel remarks about the RNLI operating a “taxi service”, they prefer to bow to the lowest instincts. Convictions of traffickers seem increasingly senseless as they are not accompanied by meaningful action, such as an honest discussion of safe and legal routes to the UK that would reduce demand for dangerous crossings. Ms Patel’s demand for British ‘field boots’ in France appears designed to ignite. Once again, the Home Office is at the heart of a nasty spectacle.

theguardian Gt

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