Around 440 people appear to have been left adrift on four different dates in early November 2021 as coastguard “effectively ignored” distress calls. Home Office announced the return of over 1000 Albanian nationals while the Albanian Prime Minister says that the government “go after Albanians to feel like they still have muscle”. Home office is planning to use 10 redundant cruise ships, ferries and barges to house asylum seekers in ports around the country.
A recent investigation reveals that hundreds of people attempting to reach the country on small boats were “abandoned to their fates” after the UK coastguard “effectively ignored” their distress calls. This occurred in the period leading up to the deadly tragedy on 24 November 2021 leaving 31 freezing to death including seven women and three children. Around 440 people appear to have been left adrift on four different dates in early November of that year before the incident after the coastguard sent no rescue vessels to 19 reported boats in UK waters. The documents obtained by the Observer raise questions concerning the understaffing of the coastguard and a lack of resources in the period immediately before the disaster. A survivor from the 24 November disaster named Amjad said that he was “lucky” adding “Maybe the [24 November] tragedy happened because they [also] tried to call the UK and the French, [and] it was useless”. On 28 April, MPs called for an urgent review of coastguard staffing levels and a fundamental review of its available resources including the multi-million France-UK deal. “No government that cares about human rights would allow staffing levels to drop so low that it endangers human lives,” said Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents coastguard staff. A spokesman for Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) refused to answer questions on why no boats were sent, saying “There are ongoing investigations into the UK’s emergency response to the Channel crossing fatalities and it would be inappropriate for HM Coastguard to comment further at this time”. A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our operational teams stand ready to respond 365 days a year and work tirelessly to respond to every small boat incident encountered in the Channel”.
Home Office announced that they reached a “milestone” in the UK-Albania agreement on “tackling illegal migration” following “intensified operational work” by both countries. “The UK and Albanian authorities have been working together to make it more difficult for illegal migrants to arrive and stay in the UK”. The statement highlighted that “over 1,000 Albanian nationals have been returned to Albania”, explaining that the figure is a “combination of failed asylum seekers, foreign national offenders and voluntary returns”. Meanwhile, the Albanian Prime Minister said that “the poor Brits” are in such a bad place “that they have to go after Albanians to feel like they still have muscle”. Critiques of the British government’s “immoral approach” towards asylum seekers and refugees continue. Senior Tory MP Bob Neill criticised Home Secretary, Suella Braverman for focusing too rigidly on the asylum bill rather than tackling the asylum backlog. “Administrative failures of the Home Office are to blame. That’s happened under successive home secretaries going back over years. The Home Office is not efficient. Changing legal tests won’t matter if you haven’t got enough people to do the investigations”. Guli Francis-Dehqani, the Bishop of Chelmsford accused ministers of using rhetoric which “targets the victims” who deserve protection from “war and persecution”. “War, persecution, famine, natural disasters and climate change mean that the desperate need for people to leave their homes and seek refuge in other countries is sadly here to stay”.
Home Office is planning to use 10 redundant cruise ships, ferries and barges to house asylum seekers in ports around the country. Officials have been told to look at “all options” to find housing for people caught up in processing delays, including former military camps and prisons as the total backlog is 1,500 higher than in December 2022. A Cabinet minister said no MP would want a large-scale facility to house asylum seekers in their area, adding that “the legislation we are putting through is to reduce the need for facilities like that”. Meanwhile, data from 20 local authorities revealed that hundreds of asylum-seeking children are being treated as adults by the Home Office. “Wrongly classifying children as adults means they could be placed alone in unsupervised accommodation alongside adults they do not know or wrongly placed in adult immigration detention centres. Some children as young as 14 have been forced to share rooms with unrelated adults”. Meanwhile, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick recently announced that a second check requirement has been scrapped for claims that are considered to be ‘clearly unfounded’ or without any substance. In a statement, Jenrich communicated “This Government believes it is important to have procedures in place to ensure that those who make clearly unfounded human rights and asylum claims are quickly removed from the UK”. Gideon Maltz, CEO of the Tent Partnership for Refugees in an op-ed said that the UK’s migration system is designed to be cruel, not effective.
For further information:
- ECRE, UK: Asylum Bill Passed Third Reading at House of Commons Amid Widespread Critique, Court of Appeal Told Rwanda Scheme Risk Breaches of the Geneva Convention, Current Asylum Accommodation System Running on De-facto Detention and Segregation, 28 April 2023
- ECRE, UK: Rwanda Scheme Failing Promises a Year After Announcement, Conservatives Want to Take Greece’s “strict but fair” Policies as an Example, NGOs Urging Prime Minister to Scrap Plans for Asylum Camps at Military Bases and Ferries, 21 April 2023