Britain battles to shore up borders

Britain battles to shore up borders, by Chris Kenny.

Spurred on by the looming implementation of Brexit — which despite the political shambles remains slotted for March 29 — boatloads of asylum-seekers are crossing the English Channel in a kind of small-scale Dunkirk evacuation in reverse.

The numbers are relatively small for now; 239 people have made the journey since November … Yet this is a dramatic upsurge in recent months. …

Most of the British boat arrivals have been Iranian, a cohort often described as economic migrants rather than refugees. (Even former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr came to this conclusion here.) All have set sail from France which, of course, is a party to the UN Convention on Refugees. On this basis alone, Britain should be wise enough to turn boats back. Typically, it doesn’t — instead using its vessels to bring asylum-seekers ashore, sparking debate about whether increased patrols and so-called “rescues” increase the incentive for boatpeople.

Though short, the 35km channel crossing is dangerous because it traverses one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and the weather can be treacherous. Dozens are ­believed to have made the crossing and disappeared into the English countryside without detec­tion, while about 40 per cent of all attempts have been thwarted by French patrols.