As we prepare for ways forward post-Covid-19, Refugee Rights Europe continues to push for the opening of access to asylum at the UK-France border.

The current global Covid-19 outbreak, which has further aggravated the conditions for displaced people stuck at the UK border, has only highlighted the desperate need for new, long-term solutions to the ongoing crisis in northern France.

For over thirty years, an untenable and inhumane bottleneck scenario has been unfolding at the UK’s border with France, trapping potential asylum seekers looking for protection, sanctuary and oftentimes reunion with friends and family in the UK. Living conditions and access to basic human rights have been deteriorating for years, and following the global Covid-19 outbreak are now worse than ever. Going forward, long-term solutions are urgently needed.

Despite the UK operating its border controls on French territory, refugees are denied the possibility of presenting an asylum claim to UK authorities. This goes against the UK's international legal human rights commitments, and has resulted in a lamentable waste of tax payers' money on inefficient increased securitisation that plays directly into the hands of smugglers and traffickers.

In addressing the lack of access to the asylum system at its borders, the UK Government has a unique opportunity to regain control of its asylum system by taking a proactive approach to asylum claims and the UK’s refugee protection responsibilities.

We are calling for:

  • A mechanism for refugees to be able to make an asylum claim from UK offshore border control facilities, in line with rights enshrined in the 1951 Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art. 14).
  • Measures to identify and accelerate transfers of particularly at-risk groups such as victims of trafficking, unaccompanied minors, LGBTQ+ persons and people with disabilities, victims of physical, mental or sexual abuse, among others, for whom delays in accessing protection systems pose even greater dangers.

This policy proposal does not preclude France having to uphold its own responsibilities on these matters, and indeed envisages meaningful collaboration with French authorities on long-term solutions to the ongoing crisis in northern France.

Photo credit:  Refugee Women’s Centre

Photo credit: Andreas Beissel 

Photo credit: Adrian Abbott