MSF statement on the tragic deaths of 27 men, women and children in the English Channel

"The deaths of 27 men, women and children trying to cross the English Channel are a tragic reminder that harsh migration policies do not work.  MSF’s medical teams have extensive experience of responding to the severe physical and mental damage inhumane migration policies have inflicted on people seeking protection in Greece, Italy, France, Belgium, the Balkans, Nauru Island, Libya and on our Search and Rescue (SAR) missions in the Central Mediterranean.  Our patients, many of whom are unaccompanied children, have endured long, perilous journeys, during which violence, torture, arbitrary detention and kidnapping –including in Europe -is commonplace.

Priti Patel’s proposed Nationality and Borders Bill seeks to criminalise people fleeing violence and persecution.  Without enough safe and legal routes, people have no choice other than to risk their lives to come to the UK using irregular routes like crossing the Channel in small boats. The UK Government’s premature ending of the Dubs Scheme and the suspension of family reunification removed almost every legal option for refugees seeking asylum in the UK from within Europe. Resettlement is the only alternative pathway yet it’s slow and doesn’t provide safety for people in immediate danger.  Less than 1% of all refugees are resettled each year[1] and the number dropped by 81% between 2020 and 2021[2]. Only 460 people have been resettled in total in the last 3 months. 

Punitive deterrence policies, like those in the Nationality and Borders Bill, will not stop people who are fleeing from the worst experiences imaginable - from danger, conflict and persecution.  If refugees have no safe way to flee danger, they will inevitably risk their lives to reach a place of safety.  Measures in this Bill are harmful, cruel and discriminatory. It will further push people into the hands of smugglers and could have irreversible and fatal consequences for people fleeing persecution and violence, as well as undermining basic human rights and contravening the UK’s legal obligations.” - Sophie McCann, Advocacy Officer for Médecins Sans Frontières/ MSF UK.


[2] people resettled in the UK between July 2020 and June 2021.

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