Speaking for Ourselves

Editorial: 'Live in dignity or die in the sea'

Editorial: 'Live in dignity or die in the sea'


 Migrant Voice - Editorial: 'Live in dignity or die in the sea'

Rasoul and Shiva, and their children Anita and Arnim, died while trying to reach safety in the UK. Their deaths were preventable and should shame us all. 

They were not the first to lose their lives on this route – but there are people with the power to make policies that can make sure they’re the last.

We are calling on the Prime Minister and Home Secretary to immediately restart and expand the UK’s refugee resettlement programmes, through which the most vulnerable refugees are identified and resettled in the UK. These programmes were suspended in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but must now be urgently restarted. 

Secondly, we need the development of safe and legal routes to claim asylum in the UK. For example, allowing those fleeing persecution and conflict to apply for asylum at the UK border in Calais. After all, it is only when there is no other way to reach safety that people get into overcrowded dinghies with their children in the middle of a cold winter night. 

It’s true that we can never know the exact reasons that compelled Rasoul and Shiva to make this journey – but logic, and the testimony of those who have made the journey and survived, tell us that they must have felt they had no other choice.

Mohammad* arrived in the UK across the Channel earlier this year after fleeing his home country, where ballistic missiles regularly landed near his home, shattering the windows, and where his city was controlled by violent gangs that forced young men like him to fight with them.

When he arrived in Europe, at an airport in Spain, he was beaten and detained by the police. After being released, there was nowhere for him to stay, so he slept on the streets. He was threatened by gangs selling drugs and when he reported this to the police, they did nothing. Feeling unsafe, Mohammad fled to France where he was again beaten by the police and was forced to work for a group of smugglers, who threatened him and blackmailed him with footage of him preparing boats for the Channel crossing. 

In Mohammad’s words:

“I still have nightmares about what happened to me in France and Spain – and the scars are still on my body. After those experiences, all I wanted was to live in dignity in the UK or die in the sea. If it was safe in Europe, no one would come to the UK. We only do it to escape something more difficult than the journey itself.”

Others, such as a young Eritrean woman with a two-year-old daughter, whom our Director met in Calais some time ago, are trying to join their family in the UK – in this woman’s case, her husband – and the dangerous crossing is the only route available.

The people stepping into those boats do not have the option to go home. And if staying in a different country – one that didn’t require you to risk your life to get there – were an option, they would. In fact, most people fleeing persecution or war do settle in other countries – very few attempt to reach the UK.

No one wants to see more men and women, more children, dying on our doorstep. But as long as there are people desperate enough to make the journey, destroying dinghies and arresting smugglers will not prevent those deaths. The only thing that will is the creation of safe, legal routes – and we urge the Government to begin this work immediately. 

*Names have been changed


TOP IMAGE: Life jackets on the beach by Ann Wuyts, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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