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03rd Dec 2021

Sadiq Khan says there’s ‘no safe way’ for asylum seekers to reach UK – urges government to act

Ava Evans

The Mayor of London said the government should not ‘be surprised if people find unsafe ways to get across the channel’

Sadiq Khan on Friday urged the government to provide safe passage to asylum seekers, arguing there simply isn’t a “safe” way for people fleeing war and poverty to reach the UK.

The London mayor spoke out just over a week after 27 refugees died in the Channel during an incident that has dominated the headlines ever since.

“What is a safe way to get to the UK? There isn’t one. So don’t be surprised if people find unsafe ways to get across the channel,” he said.

“The UK should be providing safe passages for asylum seekers.”

The government has been under mounting pressure to act this week, as heartbreaking details of last Wednesday’s tragedy, the worst on the Channel in recent history, have emerged.

Two survivors from the incident revealed to The Guardian on Wednesday that people on the boat had made two calls to British authorities seeking help, only to be told they were in French waters and should contact France.

Last year, the Home Secretary appointed Dan O’Mahoney as “small boats commander”, a role, according to the Home Office, made him primarily responsible for making the Channel route unviable for small boat crossings

Asked by Harriet Harman MP on Wednesday about the survivors’ claim, O’Mahoney said: “At this stage, I can’t tell you with any certainty whether we definitely received a call from that boat or not. It is a question for the coastguard and they are working through it.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel has been criticised for failing to work with the French to dissuade prospective migrants from making the perilous journey across the busiest shipping lane in the world.

The Home Office, according to several media reports, shot down a suggestion by the French to build a processing centre in Dunkirk, that could help curb the number of illegal crossings by providing papers for refugees to travel legally to the United Kingdom.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has written to Patel requesting a new system that would allow migrants to apply for pre-refugee status. Currently, a person can only claim asylum in the UK once they are in the country.

On Wednesday, a vigil was held in Dover to commemorate those who lost their lives in the most recent tragedy on the Channel. Around 100 people attended.

Speaking to PoliticsJOE Mayor of Dover, Gordon Cowan said he had not had communication with Patel despite Dover being the main landing and processing site for asylum seekers.

“I’m very happy to meet Priti Patel, tonight tomorrow, whenever” he said. “She needs to understand this is not going away and offering the French millions of pounds to push them back to sea is not the answer.

“People want to see no more deaths and to have no more deaths we’ve got to get rid of those little boats and make sure it’s a safe journey here to Dover”

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