Why only secure and legal routes for migrants can avoid tragedy in the Channel

By Nejma Brahim

The numbers of migrants attempting hazardous clandestine crossings of the Channel to reach Britain, mostly in overcrowded small dinghies, has soared this year, already reaching well more than double the total of 2019. Now the British government has called on the Royal Navy to assist the country’s Border Force in a move officials say is intended to make the crossings “unviable”. In this interview with Mediapart, François Gemenne, a prominent Belgian political scientist specialised in migratory issues, says that the situation in the Channel is comparable to that in the Mediterranean and warns that “the idea of closing migratory routes is absurd and dangerous” and “will lead to yet more tragedies”.

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Since the beginning of this year, more than 5,000 migrants have arrived in Britain via clandestine crossings of the Channel, including 1,004 for the period between August 4th-13th, according to analysis published by British news agency PA Media on August 21st. Those figures compare with a total of around 1,800 cross-Channel migrant arrivals on the English coast for the whole of 2019, and 400 in 2018.