The challenge of integrating beneficiaries of international protection in the European Union
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Channel crossings: Britain wants to tighten border controls
While attempts to cross the Channel have increased in recent months, British authorities are counting on France to stop asylum seekers before they reach the English coast.
In August, British politicians made a number of statements critical of the French government, denouncing the “laxity” of its migration policy and deeming the number of crossings from the French coast in small boats “unacceptable”.
It is in this context that the British government appointed, on 9 August, a former Royal Navy officer, Dan O’Mahoney, to the new post of “Commander in charge of clandestine risk in the Channel”. He heads a military intervention unit responsible for making the area “impassable” for migrants, an objective stated on 7 August by the British Home Secretary, Priti Patel. Natacha Bouchart, the mayor of Calais, denounced the appointment as “a declaration of naval war” and called on the United Kingdom to review its reception arrangements for asylum seekers.
In addition, the British Under Secretary of State for Immigration, Chris Philp, had visited Paris on 11 August to urge the French authorities to tighten controls and thwart attempts to cross the Channel. The two governments announced that they were working on a “new joint operational plan” to this end.
According to figures from the British press agency Press Association, more than 4,100 people have arrived in Britain via the Channel since the beginning of the year, including nearly 650 in August alone. 1,951 people landed on the English coast in September, the same number as during the whole of 2019. The smugglers overload the boats in order to reduce the cost of the crossings, making them de facto more risky.
Faced with this increase, the British government indicated in an interview with the Daily Telegraph on 10 October that it is considering installing nets along its coasts to block the propellers of the boats and intercept the migrants on board. In addition to the deployment of nets, the Johnson government would also aim to set up an “offshore” system for processing asylum applications, directly inspired by Australian migration policy. Asylum seekers would be detained for the duration of the procedure on ferries off the British coast or in detention centres in third countries, in Morocco, Moldova or Papua New Guinea. At the beginning of October, Priti Patel had also called for a reform of the kingdom’s “deficient” asylum system, with the aim in particular of speeding up the removal of people whose applications for protection had been rejected.