On 24 November, at least 27 people drowned as they crossed the Channel to seek safety in the UK. Our urgent briefing sets out recommendations for how MPs can take action to prevent further tragedies in the future, and introduce safe routes for people seeking safety in the UK.

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On Wednesday 24 November 2021 a small boat carrying roughly 50 men, women and children seeking to come to seek asylum in the UK capsized. By Thursday 25 November, 27 people were confirmed to have lost their lives in the freezing waters. This unthinkable tragedy was predictable, and predicted. It was also entirely avoidable. We must see a change of approach from Government in the wake of this disaster.

This awful moment of loss must mark a turning point in our approach to refugee journeys. It is not too late for the Government to change course and ensure that people seeking safety in the UK can do so without risking their lives.


  • Support Amendment 8 to the Bill - Remove clauses from the Bill that would grant lesser rights to recognised refugees who arrive spontaneously
  • Support Amendment 11 – Remove provisions for offshore detention of asylum-seekers
  • Immediately open the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme and family reunion routes
  • Introduce a humanitarian visa scheme so that people seeking safety in the UK can do so without risking their lives


The Nationality and Borders Bill entrenches a failed model discredited by the evidence

The Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill (NAB), which by its own assessment is based on “little evidence” that it will prevent people from making dangerous crossings, will in fact push people to take ever more dangerous routes to reach the UK.

The NAB and the Government’s response to this tragedy replicate a failed approach that has been discredited by the evidence time and time again. Two years ago the Foreign Affairs Select Committee concluded that an exclusive focus on closing down routes to the UK drives people into the hands of smugglers. Now, the NAB proposes further closing down routes into the UK, at the same time as introducing pushbacks and protecting officers from prosecution if they cause deaths in the Channel – a likely outcome of such an extreme and dangerous tactic.

While the numbers of people risking the Channel crossing have increased, the numbers of people seeking asylum in the UK have in fact remained relatively stable for many years. Decades of attempts to stop crossings by making the border more difficult to cross have simply pushed people into ever more risky crossing, and an endless cycle of danger that enriches smugglers.

The logic of the NAB is that by disregarding our international obligations to refugees, we can dissuade people from coming. This approach has never worked in the past. Thousands of people have drowned in the Mediterranean, and those who arrive on Greek shores are locked up in island camps, the crossings have not ended. Likewise, Australia’s policy of sending people to offshore detention camps did not stop the boats.

Australia, Greece and all the countries the Nationality and Borders Bill’s brutal policies seek to emulate still receive asylum seekers. The UK will always receive asylum seekers too, and must be proud to do so. Parliamentarians must urgently amend this Bill so that we invest in a well-functioning asylum system that is accessible to those who need it.

Recommendation: Support Amendment 8 to the Nationality and Borders Bill, to ensure equal rights for all refugees, and 11, to oppose offshore detention of refugees


There are no safe routes for asylum seekers to come to the UK

There are currently no safe routes by which people seeking asylum can reach the UK. In the wake of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the Government announced a new resettlement pathway for vulnerable Afghans escaping persecution. This was announced on 13 August 2021. Questioned in Parliament on Monday 22 November, Victoria Atkins, the Minister responsible for the scheme, confirmed that it is still not operational and could not give a timescale for when it would be in place to offer a route to safety.

Meanwhile, the Syrian resettlement scheme has also closed. Since leaving the EU we have also left the Dublin Regulation, which allowed asylum-seekers in France, Italy or Greece but who have family members in the UK to reunite with them safely, rather than risking dangerous journeys across the Channel in order to be with family. In the wake of our departure from the EU, there is currently no safe route for people with family in the UK to reach them from Europe.

Recommendation: Immediately open the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme and family reunion routes


A solution to protect refugees and put smugglers out of business

The reality is that people will always seek to reach a place of safety, because they have family here or speak the language or, in the case of Afghans, have worked alongside British forces. As long as our borders are closed to refugees, there will be people willing to take enormous risks to get here. The smugglers will be the only ones to benefit.

We must provide people with meaningful alternatives to getting into smugglers’ boats. The Nationality and Borders Bill is an opportunity to introduce regulated means of travel for people wishing to seek asylum in the UK. This must mean mechanisms for those trapped in destitution in Northern France to apply for travel documents to reach the UK safely, a new agreement to reunite family members across Europe and an end to the failed policies of fences and pushbacks, which are only going to cost more lives. A humanitarian visa is the only realistic way to avoid these catastrophes.

Recommendation: Introduce a humanitarian visa scheme so that people seeking safety in the UK can do so without risking their lives


For more information please contact: 

Zoe Gardner 
Policy and Advocacy Manager, JCWI 
zoe.gardner @jcwi.org.uk - 0207 553 7463 


Mary Atkinson 

Campaigns Officer, JCWI 

[email protected] - 020 7251 8708 

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