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Let migrants claim UK asylum in France to stop Channel crossings, says charity

Care4Calais has called on the Government to improve ‘safe legal routes’ for refugees.

A Border Force cutter on patrol in the Channel near Dover (Gareth Fuller/PA)
A Border Force cutter on patrol in the Channel near Dover (Gareth Fuller/PA)

By Flora Thompson, PA Home Affairs Correspondent, in Calais

Allowing migrants to claim asylum for the UK from France would stop the surge in perilous Channel crossings, according to a charity.

Care4Calais thinks UK officials setting up a kiosk on the continent to process asylum applications would tackle the ongoing migrant crisis and reduce the number of people trying to get across the water in small boats.

The charity has called on the Government to improve “safe legal routes” for refugees and said it is the “only way” to put a stop to trying to cross from France to the UK.

Founder Clare Moseley told the PA news agency: “They should be able to claim asylum (for the UK) while they are in France.

“Providing a safe legal route is the only way. Increasing security is a bigger risk. More security means more people get hurt and more people die.

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Osiama Mike outside his tent near Calais (Steve Parsons/PA)

“Boris Johnson’s comments calling these people illegal immigrants were inaccurate. They are asylum seekers. They are trying to get a legal claim heard.

“If there was a safe and legal way they would choose it.

“Many have family ties in the UK or can speak some English as opposed to French.

“The Government keeps saying it wants to shut the people smugglers down. That (processing applications) would do it.”

Her comments came as more migrants tried to cross the Channel and a camp in Calais was cleared twice by police on Wednesday and Thursday.

The evictions have prompted fears it could cause a spike in attempted crossings as displaced migrants turn to small boats to cross the Channel after losing their possessions and feeling they have nowhere else to stay.

The camp – a sandy grassland on the outskirts of Calais leading to a wood and a rubble wasteland dotted with tents where around 200 people had been living – is now expected to be fenced off to stop refugees returning, although by Wednesday afternoon some had already come back.

If I could speak to the UK Government, I would say, 'Give me a chance. Please don't allow me to stay here' Osiama Mike

On Thursday police patrolled while rubbish collectors moved in and tents were thrown away.

Groups of migrants were seen wandering along the side of a main road carrying their belongings in bin bags.

Osiama Mike, 27, has been there nearly two months and said he fled Nigeria after his father was killed by the authorities.

He told PA: “This place is terrible. I’m trying my best to go to the UK.

“I’ve tried four times to get on a truck but they catch me and take me back.

“The UK taught me how to speak English. I want to learn more. I don’t speak French.

“I want to study and be a lawyer.

“If I could speak to the UK Government, I would say, ‘Give me a chance. Please don’t allow me to stay here’.”

Gambian Zahar Ndure, 27, said he fled persecution and has lived in the camp for eight months and helps introduce charity workers to refugees when they visit.

He said he hopes to live and work in the UK, adding: “The problem is the people have no choice. When they see a boat, they will go.”

Another camp in a Dunkirk gym housing families with young children is expected to be evicted by police in the coming days.

Mrs Moseley said some had gone to Paris or Brussels in search of asylum, adding: “The only reason they are coming to Calais is to get to the UK. They wouldn’t come here otherwise.

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Tents near Calais where migrants seeking to get to the UK have set up camps (Steve Parsons/PA)

“They have this ‘now or never’ feeling. They are becoming desperate.”

Some 21 migrants – including three children – were picked up by UK authorities on Wednesday morning with one being taken to hospital after becoming unwell, the Home Office said.

On Tuesday 86 men, women and children crossed – thought to be the most intercepted by UK authorities alone on a single day so far.

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Border Force patrol boat Speedwell returning to Dover Harbour (Yui Mok/PA)

Border Force cutters are continuing to patrol the Channel while drones, CCTV and night vision goggles are used.

Last month, Home Secretary Priti Patel said urgent action was needed to put a stop to the wave of crossings, after she met French interior minister Christophe Castaner in Paris.

More detail on the action plan is yet to be released.

The Home Office declared the matter a major incident under former home secretary Sajid Javid and pledged millions of pounds to tackle the crisis, dispatching the three cutters.

A plan drawn up in January included a £6 million investment in security equipment, CCTV coverage of beaches and ports and a mutual commitment to return migrants under international and domestic laws, the department said.

But the number of migrants taken in by UK authorities so far this year is thought to have already passed 1,000.

A Home Office spokesman said it was an “established principle that those in need of protection should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach”.

He reiterated warnings that crossing the Channel in a small boat was a “huge risk” and the criminal gangs involved “are ruthless and do not care about loss of life”, adding: “We are working closely at all levels with the French authorities to tackle this dangerous and illegal activity.”

PA

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