In a further attempt to clamp down on migrants crossing the Channel, the British government is intensifying efforts to return people under the Dublin procedure via chartered flights that specifically target people who have entered the UK via the Channel to return them to France, Germany and Spain.

In response to an increase in attempted crossings, the UK and French government has boosted military presence in the Channel e.g. French warships from the Naval base at Cherbourg patrolling off the coast of Calais and Dunkirk; UK Border Force Cutters and Coastal Patrol Vessels patrolling the British side, supported by flights from Royal Air Force surveillance planes.  Further, the British government earlier this year launched “Operation Sillath” to return people who have arrived in the UK via the Channel under the Dublin system. Two flights have taken place in August to Germany and France, a scheduled flight to Spain was cancelled after an intervention by lawyers.

A report by Corporate Watch details the substandard conditions in the centres in which people were held prior to removal, the violence inflicted on them before and during forced deportation, and the lack of adequate referral to asylum systems or service providers in Germany and France.

Lawyers have raised concern about the unlawful nature of the removals, a misuse of the Dublin system and the lack of consideration of the specific vulnerability of each individual. The British government’s response to this has been an attempt to brand lawyers as activists. SOAS Detainee Support have send out a petition supporting 40 asylum seekers currently detained in Brook House IRC, “where self-harm and suicide attempts are widespread” who have been on hunger strike since 13 August. According to the petition the Home Office is deporting dozens of asylum seekers to France and Spain: “where they face onward deportation to unsafe countries, including a war zone and humanitarian crisis in Yemen”.

The number of people attempting to cross the channel in small boats has increased significantly in 2020. Around 300 people took this route in 2018, 2000 in 2019 – and reportedly more than 5,000 people already by August 2020.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.