We are also concerned about the language and treatment of these poor people.
“No-one puts their child in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”
I am writing to you on behalf of our group about the ongoing Channel crossings and the UK
Government’s response. Our concerns are threefold
1 Over recent weeks, we have become increasingly concerned about the dehumanising and
worrying portrayal in the national media of people seeking sanctuary on UK shores. We fear
that this has been fuelled by statements made by the UK government.
We urge you and all your colleagues to make it clear that it is entirely legal for a person
seeking sanctuary to enter the UK without documents in order to seek asylum. We are
very concerned about the language being used and ask you to urge your colleagues to
remember that these are people in distress who deserve our pity not our venom.
2 We are also asking you to write to the Home Secretary urging her to introduce safe and
legal routes to the UK to prevent risk and exploitation.
In the past, the UK has stood up for sanctuary and welcomed people seeking safety from
countries and situations as diverse as Nazi Germany, Hungary during the cold war, Vietnam,
Uganda under Idi Amin, apartheid South Africa, Chile, Syria under Assad and recently Hong
Kong. That tradition, in which we can take some pride, is now at risk.
In 2015, in response to the heart-breaking image of Alan Kurdi, a three year old Syrian boy
who drowned in the Mediterranean, many people in all parts of the UK joined the Sanctuary
Movement to make the UK a welcoming place of safety. HBTSR was founded at that time.
Now, in 2020, must we wait for the body of a little child to be washed up on a Kent beach
before we rediscover our empathy and solidarity with children and families forced to risk their
lives because they have run out of options?
Most of those people seeking sanctuary have family or loved ones in the UK, are at risk of
exploitation by people traffickers and smugglers and are fleeing war or persecution. No one
would risk their lives on a boat unless it was the only way forward towards safety, and there
was no going back.
At present, the UK does not provide a legal route, by applying for a visa, to make a claim for
protection, nor does it provide adequate resettlement for refugee family reunion. The only
way to make a claim is to do so after arrival on British soil. It is therefore completely
unsurprising that asylum seekers will take these terrible risks to reach the UK in order to
lodge their claim.
The Government should listen to the evidence and recommendations from people who have
experienced these terrible journeys and experts on humane and effective solutions to make
refugee journeys safer.
Introducing a safe and legal route and assisting refugees to access it, is the only way to
bring to an end the dangerous and inhumane traffic in small boats across the Channel.
Empowering consular officials, rather than deploying the Royal Navy, is the better, cheaper
and infinitely more humane solution.
3 Finally we would like to remind people of the immense positive contribution that past
asylum seekers/ refugees have made to the British culture.[eg Lord Maurice Saatchi and
Charles Saatchi , Richard Rogers,Marc Chagall, Lucien Freud,,Sir Alec Issigonis] A common
sentiment that a lot of refugee’s express is that they chose to come to the United Kingdom
because of its warmth, just, equal and fair treatment, and freedom of expression. These values are what the UK is known for throughout the world, and we must do our utmost to defend and maintain these moral standards for the future generations of our diverse, multi-
cultural population by ensuring that we do not stigmatise these people who can make a big contribution to our country if given a chance.
Ailsa Dunn secretary for Hay, Brecon & Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees [ 1173570]
Thank you for your letter and I hope that you are well.
As you will already be aware, I have and will continue to support the right of migrants in seeking genuine asylum and refuge in the UK.
I appreciate that in recent weeks, there have been reports of an increase in activity concerning migrants crossing the Channel under dangerous and worrying conditions. I support the Government in condemning criminal gangs that exploit migrants and have spoken privately with the Home Secretary on this issue. I agree with you that Britain has a proud history of supporting and aiding migrants and those who are fleeing war, famine and persecution – this element of the British character will not be weakened, despite those who attempt to do so.
On your point about safe routes, the UK continues to be one of the world’s leading refugee resettlement states. As a country, we resettle more refugees than any other in Europe and are in the top five countries worldwide. Since 2015, the Government has resettled more than 25,000 vulnerable refugees in need of protection through our refugee resettlement schemes, with around half being children. The Government has committed to maintain this leading position.
In the year ending March 2020, over 7,400 refugee family reunion visas were issued to partners and children of those previously granted asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK. This is 37 per cent more than in the previous year. Yes, more can always be done, but I do believe that it is important to recognise the considerable contribution this country already makes.
Refugees and asylum seekers make a tremendous contribution to the UK and I want this to continue.
Thank you again for your letter.
All best wishes,
Fay Jones MP
Sent: 10 September 2020 23:53
To: JONES, Fay
Subject: Re: appeal for helpDear Fay,
Thanks for replying and Please may I post your email on the HBTSR website so that our supporters can see our discussions ? I did share your response with members of the group who attended our Zoom meeting on Wednesday and my reply is informed by this.
I’m glad that you feel “more can always be done” – I’d love to know your thoughts about what can be done to help more refugees settle here safely and legally.
You’ll be aware that in terms of people seeking asylum https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn01403/ ( commons library ) that the UK is below the average among EU countries for asylum applications per head of population, ranking 17th among EU28 countries on this measure. Eurostat https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Asylum_statistics#Main_countries_of_destination:_Germany.2C_France_and_Spain states with 142 400 applicants registered in 2019, Germany accounted for 23.3 % of all first-time applicants in the EU-27. It was followed by France (119 900, or 19.6 %), Spain (115 200, or 18.8 %), ahead of Greece (74 900, or 12.2 %) and Italy (35 000, or 5.7 %). I think the Uk had 32,000 applications for asylum in 2019.
As you say the Syrian family resettlement scheme has been a great success but is now finishing as is the family reunion scheme. THis scheme worked with people in established Refugee camps and this is not the case for people wanting to seek asylum in the UK who are in France
The government has said that it wants to protect family reunion – but that they want to negotiate a replacement for it with the EU rather than legislate for it domestically, which is why they voted down the amendment NC29 on the Immigration Bill earlier in the year. However if ‘No deal’ is agreed how will the government protect refugee family reunion, please?
Our members particularly wanted to remind us to refer to ‘ People trying to seek asylum’ rather than migrants: asylum seekers etc as using a label can be dehumanising. Also it was suggested that if the Home office established border control in France with the ability to process asylum claims and rights to Family reunification then this would establish a safe route to the Uk and avoid people feeling forced to enter the busy shipping lanes the Channel.
All good wishes
Thu, 17 Sep, 17:05 (
Thank you for your email and I hope that you are well.
As you will be aware, negotiations are ongoing with the EU and I am very hopeful that a deal will be reached.
I was deeply disappointed to learn that the EU rejected our request to stay in the Dublin Agreement, in the event of a no deal, This has been the cornerstone of our shared policy and would be harmful to those seeking asylum.
I am reassured that the Home Office are engaged in developing alternative arrangements.
Whilst it is an imperative that the UK assists the international effort to settle refugees, it is important to note that France is a safe country with an established asylum system. I would strongly discourage anyone from putting themselves in grave danger by attempting to cross the Channel illegally.
With best wishes