Migration across the English Channel: Hotel England

More than 44,000 migrants have crossed the Channel since January, like these 45 who reached Dungeness in May.
Image: Picture Alliance

The problems with illegal migration across the English Channel are not rooted in Brussels but in Paris, Strasbourg and also in London itself. There are many opportunities for migrants in the UK.

Dhe Brexiteers’ promise to regain control of the border when they leave the EU has so far only been half fulfilled – and for many it is the less important half. Since February 2020, EU citizens have not been allowed to settle in the UK without a work visa, which has not least contributed to the labor shortage. Even if the system legal migration thanks to the new immigration law is perceived as more transparent and fairer than before, illegal migration has gotten out of hand. The skyrocketing number of migrants crossing the Channel in small boats has also shown the pro-Brexit Britons that leaving the EU cannot solve all problems. In the case of the “boat migrants”, these are not rooted in Brussels, but in Paris, in Strasbourg and, last but not least, in London itself.

Most board on the French coast; some also on Belgian beaches. Their number has increased from around 8,000 in 2020 to more than 44,000 this year. Former British Home Secretary Priti Patel said in the summer that 70 percent of the arrivals should not be classified as “genuine asylum seekers” but as “economic migrants”. Many of them had previously applied in vain for asylum in an EU country, often in Germany. The “invasion” on the south coast of England – in the words of Patel’s successor Suella Braverman – would be stopped quickly if the French took back every migrant picked up by the British. The dangerous boat crossing would no longer be worthwhile, which would also benefit France in the medium term because fewer migrants would then travel into the country to cross the Channel. But taking back refugees was difficult to organize even before Brexit.

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