‘Nobody forces migrants to attempt crossings but people traffickers don’t care if their ‘customers’ live or die’ - reader’s letter

From: Wayne Andrews, Chitcombe Road, Broad Oak

Friday, 3rd December 2021, 7:19 am
Updated Friday, 3rd December 2021, 4:14 pm
A group of migrants arrive via the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) on Dungeness beach. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

In September, you kindly published my letter about the cross-Channel migrant situation, and my objections to the roles of the RNLI and UK Border Force in helping to facilitate the crossings.

The letter prompted some heated responses, followed by a spirited ‘debate’ about whether those organisations should be involving themselves in the situation. In my own reply, I suggested that the very presence of RNLI lifeboats, which is known to the people traffickers on the French coast, was actively encouraging more people to attempt to cross that dangerous stretch of water, with its powerful currents, busy shipping lanes, and so on (“don’t worry if you get into difficulty; the British lifeboats will help you get safely across”).

Now, as we all know, a tragedy has occurred, with the deaths of at least 27 people in rough seas, just a few miles off the French coast. It gives me no pleasure to point out that, sooner or later, a tragedy of this sort was almost inevitable, with people setting out in dinghies and small vessels ill-equipped for the conditions they face, especially in rough seas and bad weather.

It is too simplistic to try to apportion ‘blame’ for the tragedy, but it must surely prompt a rethink of how we handle the situation. Nobody forces the would-be migrants to attempt the crossings, but the people traffickers have no incentive to call a halt to their activities and, to put it bluntly, they don’t care if their ‘customers’ live or die.

Conditions in the Channel will get worse during the winter months, so we would actually be doing the migrants a potentially life-saving favour if we now stopped accepting them.

Word would soon get back to others thinking of attempting the crossing that the UK will no longer accept them so it’s not worth trying. It’s harsh on people genuinely fleeing from persecution or worse, but how many deaths at sea would be considered a price worth paying for making the crossing at all?

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