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Two arrested on suspicion of arranging English Channel migrant crossings

In December, around 230 people tried to make the 33-kilometre journey from France to Britain.

 A Border Force patrol vessel leaves the Port of Dover.
A Border Force patrol vessel leaves the Port of Dover.
Image: PA Images

TWO PEOPLE HAVE been arrested over recent English Channel migrant crossings.

Since October Britain has seen a surge in small boat arrivals carrying asylum seekers predominantly from Iran and also Syria, with scores of people detained over the Christmas holiday period.

Authorities apprehended 539 people crossing the Channel last year, with 80 percent making the journey in the last three months of 2018, according to the Home Office.

Yesterday the UK’s National Crime Agency announced that two men had been arrested in Manchester – a 33-year-old Iranian national and a 24-year-old British man – on suspicion of arranging the illegal movement of migrants across the English Channel and into the United Kingdom.

Britain announced earlier this week that it will deploy two border patrol ships in the Channel in response to a surge in migrants crossing from France in dinghies.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the Border Force ships would balance protecting human life with protecting Britain’s borders.

In December, around 230 people tried to make the 33-kilometre journey from France to Britain, Javid said.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents Source: PA Images

The attempts, chiefly by Iranian nationals, to cross one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes have been made in dinghies and other small craft.

Yesterday Javid questioned if the asylum seekers were genuinely fleeing persecution — drawing immediate criticism from asylum advocates.

During a visit to the southeastern English port town of Dover, where unauthorised arrivals have spiked, he questioned why people had not already claimed asylum in continental Europe.

“A question has to be asked: if you are a genuine asylum seeker, why have you not sought asylum in the first safe country that you arrived in?” he said.

“Because France is not a country where anyone would argue it is not safe in anyway whatsoever, and if you are genuine then why not seek asylum in your first safe country?”, he asked.

Javid’s comments were labelled “deeply concerning” by Lisa Doyle, director of advocacy at the Refugee Council charity.

“We are hearing time and again that the conditions in France do not make people feel safe, with migrant camps being razed from the ground and people experiencing violence from the authorities,” she said.

It’s a shame that the home secretary seems to need reminding that seeking asylum is a right and the UK has an obligation to assess claims fairly and grant protection to those who need it.

© – AFP 2019, additional reporting by Nicky Ryan

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