To find oneself agreeing with the Home Sectreary – any Home Secretary, of any party or indeed century – is to find oneself questioning one’s own sanity. Sensible people just don’t agree with whatever it is that happens to people once they’re in charge of the police. However, it is also true that Sajid Javid is correct here. People who are trying to cross the Channel in small boats just aren’t legitimate asylum seekers. That’s just not how the international system works:
The home secretary has questioned whether migrants using small boats to cross the English Channel are “genuine” asylum seekers. Speaking during a visit to Dover, Sajid Javid said: “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? “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?”
Note what the crticism of this is about:
Paul Hook, the head of campaigns at Refugee Action, said the home secretary’s words needed to be more compassionate. “These are people first and foremost and they deserve a humanitarian response,” he said. “We need an approach built on compassion and we hope the home secretary will demonstrate that in his words and actions in the coming days and weeks.”
They’re not saying he’s wrong, far from it. They’re instead claiming he’s a Blue Meanie because of the words he’s using. Which is about as far as politics ever gets in admitting that the other guy is in fact right.
The actual legal situation is a bit worse than this actually. As an asylum seeker you don’t have that choice of where to apply. It’s the first safe pace you get to:
Anyone fleeing for their life, other governments have a duty to offer asylum and safety. Those fleeing have a right to it being offered. The general principle being that we never quite know when Jezza is going to appoint the Senior Lecturer the Tax Censor and so we’ll need to be fleeing out. This right though is absolute in one sense and not in another. It’s absolute in that everyone gets to claim it and everyone has to listen and decide. But the decision rests upon people claiming such asylum in the first safe place they reach.
Imagine the claim that Iran is not safe for these individuals for whatever reason. OK. Imagine they step off a plane at Heathrow – assuming there are still direct flights – then Hounslow in our fair land is the correct place to claim that asylum that we’ve got to grant. And we’d be entirely happy to do so too. However, same people, same righteous fear, crossing the Channel by dinghy. The claims must be rejected. Because no one has sailed around from the Persian Gulf in that craft. They’ve been on land at some point and on land in Europe too. Actually, obviously enough, they’ve been on land in France and while France has its perils – a distressing lack of soap use perhaps – they’re not enough to make a place unsafe to an asylum seeker. Thus they’ve already been in a place where they should have claimed that asylum.
That they should have claimed elsewhere is enough for us to righteously reject their application here. That’s just the way the system works.
Javid is entirely correct here, they’re not legitimate asylum seekers.