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BASW calls for practical help on channel crossings

War of words is not needed in the situation of migrants crossing from France

Recent warm weather has seen a significant increase in the number of migrants and asylum seekers crossing the Channel to the UK from France in open boats.

Many of the migrants and asylum seekers are children and young people, and many of these are unaccompanied by parents or responsible adults.

The majority of such trips will have been organized by criminal gangs making money out of the most vulnerable through trafficking people.

Undertaking this journey on the open sea in overcrowded, flimsy inflatable boats is risky enough, but when the Channel is one of the most crowded shipping lanes in the world, the wake of a super-tanker can easily capsize an inflatable boat. Lives of adults and children are at risk.

Once migrants and asylum seekers land, under the 1989 Children Act, local authorities have a duty to look after unaccompanied children, a duty which falls to social workers to discharge.

Local authorities, whose boundary is defined by the Channel coast, are facing severe challenges in securing enough placements, staff and other resources to address the needs of these children and young people.

The Government has responded to the crisis by labelling the migrants ‘very bad and stupid and dangerous and criminal’ (Prime Minister Boris Johnson) and calling in a Royal Navy surveillance plane, while some 25 local MPs in a joint letter have dubbed the crisis ‘an invasion’ ignoring the fact that many of them will be refugees fleeing war and persecution in their own countries.

BASW is calling for the negative rhetoric to be dialled down. These are vulnerable people and need to be treated, and spoken of, as such. Being an asylum seeker is not a crime.

The government needs to both address the resource implications for affected local authorities and the social workers undertaking this skilled work, while looking longer term at how refugees – including children - can exercise their right to claim asylum without risking their lives on the open sea.