Prime Minister Boris Johnson is threatening to use the British Navy to block emigres from Iran and Afghanistan from crossing the Channel to make landfall in England. The London Times interviews a number of emigres, and the result is this sympathetic piece: “Refugees pushed to the brink in Calais: ‘If they stop us I’ll drown myself.’”
Migrants preparing to cross the Channel in small dinghies warned today that they would throw themselves overboard if the Royal Navy tried to force them back.
Families living in refugee camps said that the Channel would become a sea of bodies after Boris Johnson pledged to counter a surge in the number of boat crossings.
Kamal Sadeghi, 39, a Christian convert from Iran, his wife, Niki Karimi, 33, and their daughter, Sava, who celebrates her first birthday on Sunday, have spent ten days living in a tent in woodland close to Calais central hospital.
“The boat is our only chance for a new life in a safe country,” Mr Sadeghi, a singer and carpenter, said. “I am too tired to carry on. If they try to stop us I will drown myself.”
Ms Karimi, a lawyer who is suffering from depression because of their ordeal, said: “We need just a normal life. We need to get on a boat. If they try to stop us I will kill myself. I would jump in the water”.
“I have no money, no food, no home, no reason to carry on living if they try to stop me getting to England,” [Yusshka Mir, 36, a clothes designer from Iran] said. “What Boris Johnson does not understand is that for us it is better to die if we cannot reach England. I would drown myself. We will all die.”
“For us if you live or die, it does not matter unless we get to England,” he said. “We will all keep trying until we die.”
I can understand that level of desperation to get away from Iran. Only…these people are not in Iran. They are in France. And France was nowhere near the first country they came to after leaving Iran or Afghanistan. The life and death gamble is not to get from Iran to Britain, it is to get from France to Britain. Why?
The key difference in entitlement to benefits for refugees in the UK and France is the time it takes to make claims and win the ability to work. …
Single asylum seekers receive a monthly allowance of €190 (£170), and a family of six get €660.
Asylum seekers in the UK can apply immediately for financial support and a place to live after they arrive. They are usually not allowed to work unless the claim takes longer than six months to process, but anecdotally it is easier to find work without the documentation.
A single asylum seeker receives £37.75 per week, loaded on a debit card, as well as NHS GP and hospital care.
Seyar Naib, 31, from Afghanistan, said a Polish man he found on the internet had offered to smuggle him across the Channel if he could find €3,000 (£2,700). “All my family are living in Manchester,” he said. “I cannot stay in France, they do not give you anything. I need to be with my family.”
[Aziz Shojaei, 27, also from Afghanistan] wants to join his brothers, two of whom live in London and the other in Cardiff. “If I make asylum here [in France] they will not give us a house or money”, he said. “No one cares here.”
Refuge shopping is in part a commercial matter. We see the same thing with migrants who leave Honduras and Guatemala and then traverse the entire country of Mexico to try to enter the United States. If a country is more welcoming, and offers better benefits, it will attract more refugees and other migrants. Still, there is something seemingly unbalanced about threatening to drown oneself unless one is permitted to upgrade from France to the U.K.