People drowning in the Channel while trying to claim asylum in the UK is not a good look, that is true. It’s even something we might want to do something about. The question becomes, well, what should be done?
The first thing would be to understand the asylum system:
For years, the evidence has been clear. Border policies are the problem; safe and legal routes are one of the solutions. These deaths are avoidable, but still politicians push on with making it near-impossible for people to get to the UK, knowing full well that most people have to be here to submit their asylum application and that most will have no choice but to make life-threatening journeys to do so. The government creates this situation, then tries to make political capital out of it.
No, that’s not it.
Everyone at even risk – let alone reality – of substantial discrimination in their home country has the right, the right, to asylum. This is one of those international things that we should indeed agree with too. Few of us have anything but contempt for those who wouldn’t let Holocaust fleeing Jews (and or gypsies, gays, whatever, it’s just that we have substantial documented evidence about Jews who were turned away) tarnish their national doormats. Few of us think those who abused such limitations are anything but heroes. I even know of one monk who married Jewesses multiple times to bring them out by train. Umm, married multiple people, not one many times. People working within the too restrictive rules even gave us one of the finest moments of TV ever.
So, asylum, good thing.
And here’s the next thing. That right is restricted. To claiming it in the first safe place you get to. This has some oddities, if you leave Sudan by plane and step off at Heathrow then the UK is where you can – righteously – claim asylum. If you come by land then you have passed through many safe places before reaching the UK. You don;t have the right to asylum in the UK and, to be strict about it, don’t even have the right to apply.
So, people drowning in the Channel because they have to make their asylum application once in the UK? This could be true of those who are being oppressed in France. It’s not true of anyone not being oppressed in France. So there is not that need to take the open boat the 26 miles.
Sure, there’s the desire, we all understand that. But that’s a desire, not a right to asylum.