Humanitarian visas would end tragedies in the Channel

We are all shocked and saddened by yet another tragedy in the Channel, as those looking for sanctuary with us are drowned or had a terrifying experience not knowing if they will be rescued from an icy sea.

But as well as being upset by the tragedy, I am, yet again, angry with our Government’s response.  They sound sorry about it, but do not begin to understand the situation, think getting tough on traffickers will solve everything, along with putting those that do get here on a plane to Rwanda.  Their ideas are not only impractical but half baked and just a series of statements for the media.

Of course, we need to very quickly set up mechanisms for safe routes, although the UNHCR will be ready and waiting to implement.  But the reality is that very many of those in the camps on the north coast of Europe have spent months and years travelling across Europe through hazardous and dangerous conditions.  They aren’t going to suddenly return to their homeland because there is nobody to give them the only chance they have of reaching the UK where, for instance, they usually have relatives or friends, and they can speak the language.

Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to be able to make a claim for asylum whilst in a country like France? A system of Humanitarian Visas would allow just that.  Whilst not all decisions would be right at least if decision making is done right most would then be eligible to come to the UK and could do so in a safe way to be transported over the channel.

You can find out more about Humanitarian Visas here on the UNHCR site and the Liberal Democrat policy is here on the Lib Dems for Seekers of Sanctuary site.

Those that are not eligible could at least be given the chance of resettlement elsewhere depending on their circumstances.

Why will the Government not sit down with some of the major organisations that work with asylum seekers to work through ways that are humanitarian and can be implemented?  That comes up with solutions that will save lives, save distressing waits of months actually to get on a boat, save rescue boats from the great work they are doing? There is only one answer to that question and it is that the right wing media won’t like it.

* Suzanne Fletcher was a councillor for nearly 30 years and a voluntary advice worker with the CAB for 40 years. Now retired, she is active as a campaigner in the community both as a Lib Dem and with local organisations.

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10 Comments

  • Hi Suzanne and thank you for yet again standing up for asylum seekers and reminding our members how vital it is to ensure that our party is recognised as consistently supporting the right of all to seek sanctuary in the country of their choice.
    So many of our Lib Dem MPs and Peers have reiterated our policies on asylum over the years including the right to claim asylum, the need for more safe and legal ways of doing so ( in addition ti those

  • + continued from previous comment: ( in addition to those resettlement schemes for Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine, which are available for fewer refugees than need relocation).
    I agree with Suzanne that the need for humanitarian visas granted within their country or at the northern border in France would be the most sensible way of allowing those seekers of sanctuary with a credible claim to avoid the dangerous and expensive Channel crossings and land routes offered by agents.

    Lib Dems are not alone in advocating refugee visas . Most refugee charities and NGOs agree with us and Enver Solomon , CEO of Refugee Council, spoke on BBC TV this week asking the Home Office to introduce them. Lib Dems 4 Seekers of Sanctuary have worked together to promote this policy and others including the right for seekers of sanctuary to take employment as they wait for their claim to be decided.A refugee visa could offer that opportunity too thus saving very large sums of money by creating less dependence on Government funding.

  • Whilst this seems good idea, I suspect its effect will be to simply remove some free obstacles to movement and thus increase the numbers of people held in government “reception centres” and/or wandering our streets.

    Fundamentally, we and the world need to address the root causes of migration, because we can all be sure, with climate change the numbers attempting to cross the channel today will pale into insignificance.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 16th Dec '22 - 10:22am

    I see that Brian Paddick did raise Humanitarian Visas in the Lords in November. Point made well and supported by Bishop of Durham, but Minister says it is not Government Policy. https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2022-11-29/debates/3CAD3750-4B00-4230-895A-7B85C382FF83/ManstonUpdate#contribution-700BC1A8-A569-4DDD-9F61-5E846113A731
    So exactly what is Government policy for those in Calais already? that set off from country of origin months and years ago? they are there. Now, the only option they have is risk death.

  • Humanitarian Visas are an acceptable solution to these dangerous crossings. If it is clear that the result will be the same whether the claim is made in France or Dover then eventually the crossings will diminish. There will have to be a cap and thus in effect a scoring system. Attempting a crossing when refused a HV could be construed a criminal offence or like trespassing or is that too right wing?

  • Nonconformistradical 18th Dec '22 - 12:00pm

    “Fundamentally, we and the world need to address the root causes of migration, because we can all be sure, with climate change the numbers attempting to cross the channel today will pale into insignificance.”
    Absolutely.

    I’m an atheist – but Christmas is supposed to be about celebrating the birth of Christ is it not?

    Seems to me to be more about exploitation and getting more money into the hands of the wealthy at the expense of the poor. I wonder what Jesus Christ would be thinking about it – given his supposed views on unscrupulous moneylenders…..

  • Humanitarian Visas are an acceptable solution to these dangerous crossings. If it is clear that the result will be the same whether the claim is made in France or Dover then eventually the crossings will diminish. There will have to be a cap and thus in effect a scoring system. Attempting a crossing when refused a HV could be construed a criminal offence or like trespassing or is that too right wing?

    This doesn’t work though. Think about it. If attempting a crossing when refused a visa is a criminal offence, then no one who knows or suspects that their visa request will be refused has any incentive to even apply for one; instead, they will simply go straight to attempting a crossing, as they do now, knowing that once they set foot on UK soil it is next to impossible for them to be deported whatever the merits of their case.

    So this system wouldn’t actually reduce the number of illegal crossings by any appreciable amount.

  • Roland 16th Dec ’22 – 9:44am:
    “Fundamentally, we and the world need to address the root causes of migration, because we can all be sure, with climate change the numbers attempting to cross the channel today will pale into insignificance.

    Presumably fleeing the UK for a warmer life in Antarctica…

    ‘Climate change study predicts refugees fleeing into Antarctica’ [October 2008]:
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/earthnews/3353247/Climate-change-study-predicts-refugees-fleeing-into-Antarctica.html

    Climate change will force refugees to move to Antarctica by 2030, researchers have predicted.

    It’s to be hoped they find some gas when they get there. It’s getting colder…

    ‘Yesterday, Greenland Gained Enough Mass To Bury Central Park Under 9,000 Feet Of Ice; Antarctica’s Coldest Month Of November Since 1987; China’s Big Freeze Intensifies–Beijing’s Lowest Nov Temp Since 1970; + Quiet Sun’ [1st. December 2022]:
    https://electroverse.co/greenland-8gts-antarcticas-coldest-nov-since-1987-chinas-big-freeze-sun/

  • The only way that Humanitarian Visas will be acceptable to the general voter and the only way it will work is by making it clear that there will be a zero tolerance to small boat crossings and anybody who comes over by small boat will be detained, will not be allowed to claim asylum and will be deported, no exceptions.

    Otherwise it will not reduce the amount of crossings by 1 person as anybody who is refused a Humanitarian Visa or feels they won’t be eligible will just go in a small boat.

    There must be stick as well as the Carrot.

  • Having thought further, it is clear to me that Humanitarian Visas will have the opposite effect to that intended. It is clear the only reason why there are such large numbers people attempting to cross the channel from France is because of criminal business; get rid of the people smugglers ie. those who are transporting people to the French coast and providing the boats and the problem is largely solved. All the Humanitarian visa will do is to make it easier for the criminals to gain a successful outcome at a lower cost and risk to themselves – they would merely need to get people to somewhere willing to issue them with an “open borders”/”free movement” visa for a backhander…

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