Co-operation or tougher asylum controls? Are we beginning to see a change in tactics?


Controlling migrant activity across the English Channel has proven difficult, as the Ministry of Defence was called upon to help tackle the issue. The sudden change in tactics was justified by the government due to the high number of crossings so far, with 600 migrants being intercepted since 6 August 2020. 

However, the use of naval capabilities to curb Channel crossings is a new development, considering the history of co-operation between the UK and French governments, most notably through the Sandhurst Treaty 2018. The UK spent €50 million to bolster security and reduce illegal migration, stemming from northern French ports. The use of bolder tactics could be an indication that the UK government is beginning to distance itself from the enshrined ‘Dublin Regulations’, which is on the list for a potential repealment, as it will render useless without the backing of other EU member states, after the end of Brexit transition period.

Migrants are able to file an application to claim asylum upon entering the country. The Dublin III regulation provides a mechanism to decide which member state should process these asylum claims. The Home Office must consider the circumstances of each applicant, such as whether deportation will put their life in danger. If this occurs, deportation could contravene Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which states that no one shall be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The UK government continued in its decision to make use of naval resources to tackle crossings, even though it was met with resistance. A notable example of this is French National Assembly Member for Calais, Pierre Henri-Dumont who labelled it a “political measure that will not change anything”. Statistics from 2017 show that due to the Dublin Regulation, although 676 illegal migrants were returned to other EU member states, 1,019 had their asylum applications transferred to the UK, so it brings into question the practicality of naval resources and whether the Dublin Regulation undermines it.

As of August 11th, the UK government does however, appear to be attempting to deal with channel crossings in two-ways. The first way by reviewing its current “panoply of laws regarding migrants’ rights” as stated by PM Boris Johnson but at the same time pursuing increased cooperation by sending Immigration Minister Chris Philp to Paris to discuss new measures, the results for which we have yet to see.

This article is intended for guidance only and must not be relied upon for specific advice.