Yesterday, Sarah Atherton MP received criticism from immigration law specialists after posting that the armed forces should be deployed to stop the migrant crossings across the English Channel.
This is undoubtedly an emotive subject, advocacy groups and immigration lawyers may take umbrage with the sentiments expressed by Sarah Atherton MP. However, some of the points raised in the social media post do not seem unreasonable.
For instance, are we saying that France is not a safe and stable country for an individual to be able to claim asylum? Legally, it may be the case that asylum seekers can claim asylum in a country of their choice. But are we to accept that the law is always beyond reproach, or do we accept that law and convention can evolve in time? Something being set out in law does not make it infallible nor impervious to change otherwise we would continue to practice capital punishment, while homosexuality would remain criminalised. Lawyers do not have a monopoly of wisdom on what are normative questions about law enforcement and what state measures are legitimate to support this.
Many however, would form the opinion that an individual seeking to claim asylum ceases to be an asylum seeker if they did not claim asylum at the first available opportunity in the first safe country. Instead, they would perceive the individual as having become an economic migrant for neglecting to claim asylum and continued travelling through many safe countries onwards with the desired destination of Britain.
Without wanting to be disingenuous given the clandestine approach taken to try and enter Britain you could question if there is a genuine desire to seek asylum. It is possible to claim asylum in a country without actually being physically present. To seek to enter the country without detection and then claim asylum once discovered is unfair on those who follow the correct procedures while seeking asylum.
While some of those looking to make the crossing may have genuine grounds for claiming asylum, others are undoubtedly economic migrants. Irrespective of the status or intentions of those trying to cross the treacherous English Channel, we should be mindful that those making the crossing are at the mercy of both the elements and criminals.
Those who enter the country through clandestine means are ripe for abuse and exploitation. Without the necessary paperwork, they are at risk of being forced to accept poor employment conditions and pay far below the minimum wage. We have an immigration system in place partially to prevent individuals from being left in such circumstances.
Advocacy groups accused Sarah Atherton of ignorance on this matter, while a barrister called the social media post counterproductive. One must wonder how advocating using our armed forces to stop illegal crossings is counter productive, surely such deployment could achieve the desired outcome. The crossings will undoubtedly continue until individuals are dissuaded from risking the crossing and so Sarah Atherton is right to suggest that the boats must be stopped from reaching Britain.
However well-meaning individuals and groups may be on this issue, you have to feel they are unwittingly part of the problem. A reticence to preventing the illegal crossings is simply exposing individuals to huge risk and more lives will be tragically lost.