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Christian groups demand 'safe and legal' routes for asylum seekers after migrant boat deaths

by Tola Mbakwe

Christian refugee campaigners have demanded that French and UK governments provide a safe and legal way for people to escape their countries. 

It's after French authorities said a five-year-old, an eight-year-old and two adults died after the vessel which sunk off the coast of Dunkirk on Tuesday. 

More than a dozen people were taken to hospital and searches have been carried out for any others caught up in the tragedy.

It is believed to be the single biggest loss of life during the current migrant crisis, and brings the total number of deaths since 2018 to ten.

Clare Moseley, who founded the Christian refugee charity Care4Calais, called for the incident to be a "wake-up call" for those in power in the UK and France.

She said: "We are grieving for the victims, we stand in sympathy and solidarity with their families and friends.

"It is cruel and horrifying that, this time, young children are among the victims.

She added: "We have to provide a safe and legal process by which refugees can have their UK asylum claims heard, that's the way to put an end to terrifying, dangerous sea crossings and stop tragedy striking again."

Her views were echoed by Adam Baker, head of Christian charity Refugee Roots. He told Premier the Home Secretary's plan to make the trip unviable by intercepting boats at sea isn't the answer either. 

"If anything, that will make things a lot worse and people will take even greater risks. The countries and the situations that people are fleeing, those circumstances will still exist, people will still need protection and they'll still need to find safety. A safer way to claim asylum, a legal way of claiming asylum would be a positive way forward."

The people on board are thought to have been trying to cross to the UK, despite wind gusts of up to 18mph.

Fifteen people were taken to hospitals in Calais and Dunkirk, according to the Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "We have offered the French authorities every support as they investigate this terrible incident and will do all we can to crack down on the ruthless criminal gangs who prey on vulnerable people by facilitating these dangerous journeys."

But Rev Steve Tinning, who works with the Baptist Union to campaign for asylum seekers, told Premier the UK's policies seem to be against refugees. 

"At the moment, the UK's policies mean that once they're in Europe, there is an next to zero opportunity for them to come legally. We had the Dubs Amendment, which allowed unaccompanied children to come to the UK from European countries, that's now closed," he said. 

"We have this EU law that sees children that have been separated from their family be able to be reunited with them in the UK, and come the 31st of December that is closing. So we will have no safe and legal routes for children in Europe who are desperate to come to the UK and the consequences are being felt."

According to data from the PA news agency, nearly 7,500 people have crossed to the UK on small boats during 2020. 

Listen to Premier's interview with Rev Steve Tinning here: 


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