The war on refugees crossing the Channel

How do you feel about refugees crossing the Channel?

What’s the Home Office planning to do with the wave of refugees heading to our shores?

Harrowing pictures of frightened refugees huddled together in flimsy, plastic boats attempting to cross the world’s busiest shipping lane, with television journalists filming and reporting from the safety of much sturdier craft, have become familiar images on our TV screens.

We know for certain that at least one person has died this year trying to cross the Channel, as a 16-year-old Syrian boy’s body was washed up on a French beach after he and a friend set out for the UK in a tiny dinghy.

There may have been more fatalities, as yet undiscovered.

Those that do make it, generally victims of ruthless people traffickers, are mostly apprehended on the beaches and led away to confinement and uncertainty. But amid the suffering and misery, the government’s approach to the situation is only hardening.

Home Secretary, Priti Patel, who, according to government sources, told concerned Conservative MPs in a conference call that many of the asylum seekers have said they believe France is racist and fear being beaten and tortured if they remain there, is at the same time strengthening moves to keep the refugees out by adopting ever sterner tactics.

Some seeing it as a repeat of Home Office failings that led to the Windrush scandal

One such move would see the UK adopting the heavily criticised Australian ‘push back’ policy, potentially using the might of Royal Navy vessels to turn away the little plastic boats. Even the Home Office, presumably operating under instructions, has become involved and subsequently come under fire. A video, clearly influenced by the opening sequence of perennial TV favourite, Dad’s Army, was published online, explaining how the Home Office was ‘working to remove migrants with no right to remain in the UK,’ whilst ‘activist lawyers’ were trying to disrupt the asylum system.

It added that soon the UK ‘will no longer be bound by EU laws and can negotiate our own return arrangements.’ After numerous protests and complaints regarding the Civil Service Code to uphold the administration of justice, the video was eventually removed, but not before it had been viewed more than a million times. At its narrowest, the Channel is a mere 21 miles wide, but these are deep waters and stormy seas.

What our surveys show

The government’s hardline approach has been criticised across the political spectrum, with some seeing it as a repeat of Home Office failings that led to the Windrush scandal. However, our surveys reveal that many of us have views on this issue very much in line with our position on Brexit.

As many as 95% of Leave voters came out in support of the Australian ‘push back’ approach, whilst 51% of Remain voters felt the same way. And using the military option to enforce ‘turn back’, a policy which has drawn heavy criticism from France, received similar backing, with 90% of Leave voters in favour of bringing in the navy or air force, whilst just under half of Remainers (49%) felt the same way.

But, perhaps surprisingly, even though the percentages amongst Leavers and Remainers differ considerably with both survey questions, it must also be acknowledged that even amongst Remainers, more of those surveyed came out in favour of both a ‘push back’ policy and the use of military to enforce that policy than against.

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