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LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn warned the government today to treat refugees crossing the English Channel in a “humanitarian” way.
He made the comments after Home Secretary Sajid Javid publicly cast doubt on whether the migrants were “genuine” asylum-seekers.
Mr Corbyn refused to follow the government’s reactionary right-wing rhetoric and instead said the refugees are “the product of wars, they are the product of human rights abuses, they are the product of environmental disasters.”
Marking a turning point compared to previous Labour leaders, who have tried to act tougher than the Tories on immigration, Mr Corbyn stayed true to his principles and said “Europe cannot close its borders to them.”
A small number of refugees have tried to cross the English Channel by boat in recent weeks. The Home Secretary has declared the voyages a “major incident.”
He cut short his luxury safari holiday and diverted two Border Force cutters from the Mediterranean to patrol the Dover Strait.
Mr Javid told reporters today that 539 people had crossed the Strait in 2018.
He said “almost every case” saw those crossing go on to seek asylum in Britain, adding: “A question has to be asked: if you are a genuine asylum-seeker why have you not sought asylum in the first safe country that you arrived in?
“Because France is not a country where anyone would argue it is not safe in anyway whatsoever,” he claimed, astonishing aid workers who have seen French police attacks on camps like the Calais Jungle.
Many of the refugees on the boats are Iranians, suffering from the effects of US economic sanctions and domestic political repression.
Despite Mr Javid’s comments, his own department granted asylum to nearly 50 per cent of Iranian applicants in 2017.
Even if they are refused asylum, deportations are rare. Official statistics show that the Home Office was only able to deport 25 Iranian asylum-seekers during the first half of 2018.
Dr Lisa Doyle, director of advocacy at the Refugee Council, said Mr Javid’s comments were “deeply concerning.”
She added: “The outcome of an asylum application cannot be pre-judged before it has been made and must be processed on its individual merit, irrespective of how that person reached the country.
“Let us not forget that we are talking about people who are in desperate need of protection, having fled countries with prolific human rights abuses.
“What is more, we are hearing time and again that the conditions in France do not make people feel safe, with migrant camps being razed from the ground and people experiencing violence from the authorities.
“It’s a shame that the Home Secretary seems to need reminding that seeking asylum is a right and the UK has an obligation to assess claims fairly and grant protection to those who need it.”
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