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Apply for UK visas in France to stop deadly asylum seeker Channel crossings urges KCC Lib Dem leader


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The government must find a safer route for asylum seekers travelling into the UK and the answer could be an office in northern France, says one councillor.

Cllr Anthony Hook (Lib Dem), opposition leader at KCC, has suggested applying for UK visas in Calais, before coming into the country, to prevent another tragedy like the one which claimed 28 lives this week.

He said that this could take place at UK Border Force's offices in Coquelles in northern France, rather than in the Port of Dover and at the Channel Tunnel.

Cllr Hook said: "It does not mean they will get asylum. The applications are put in and they will be assessed before a final decision is made.

"It will take away the need for people to make a perilous journey and put the people traffickers out of business."

More asylum seekers are making the treacherous journey from France to the UK and many have pointed at the lack of safe routes as a contributing factor.

On Wednesday at least 28 people tragically lost their lives after a dinghy capsized off the coast of Calais.

A man wheels a gurney into a warehouse in the Port of Calais, France following Wednesday's tragedy Picture: PA
A man wheels a gurney into a warehouse in the Port of Calais, France following Wednesday's tragedy Picture: PA
Anthony Hook has called for safer routes
Anthony Hook has called for safer routes

Their bodies were found floating motionless in icy water by fishermen and one was washed up in Sangatte yesterday.

Among the dead were seven women, one of whom was pregnant, and three children.

It was the biggest loss of life yet in a crisis which has gripped the Kent coast for years.

Previously a family of five, including a baby and two young children, drowned while crossing the perilous stretch, which is the world's busiest shipping lane.

But more have made the trip since and many sat in squalid camps in northern France have vowed to try.

Police detain asylum seekers attempting to cross the Channel on Thursday Picture: UKNIP
Police detain asylum seekers attempting to cross the Channel on Thursday Picture: UKNIP

In 2021 more than 30,000 have made the crossing, well over triple 2020's figures.

More than 200,000 asylum seekers live in the UK compared to the 3.1 million living in Turkey, which has the most in the world.

In 2020, the UK received 36,000 asylum applications, the fifth highest number in Europe. Germany had 122,015 applicants and France had 93,475. The UK's intake was 17th per head of population.

In the wake of the tragedy Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called on France to agree to joint police patrols along the Channel coast.

But a former Border Force head said such a policy would be ineffective.

Bridget Chapman, Kent Refugee Action Network spokesman, described the incident as an "appalling and avoidable tragedy".

Asylum seekers at a camp in France on Thursday Picture: UKNIP
Asylum seekers at a camp in France on Thursday Picture: UKNIP

The Home Office says it takes more than six months to make a decision on an asylum claim.

It was suggested that major changes are made into the way the system is run.

Cllr Hook said: "The government needs to create a safer route for people to come into this country and seek asylum."

KCC holds responsibility for taking in unaccompanied asylum seeking children, who are aged under 18, when they arrive on the shores of Kent.

The county council has described the migrant tragedy as "unthinkable" but has declined to comment on the government's wider immigration policies.

KCC support young adults, up to the age of 25, with education, employment, training and accommodation to secure the "best start" in life.

It's next corporate parenting panel, which oversees the care given to asylum seekers, is scheduled in a public meeting on December 8 at 2pm.

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