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Asylum seekers risk everything to cross the dangerous English Channel. The UK should do more to help them.

Although the Covid19 pandemic appears to be the main story this year, we should not forget the indifference the Home Office shows towards migrants and Asylum seekers. I am of the opinion that the deaths of men, women and children who are dying as they attempt to cross the English Channel to come to the UK to claim political asylum is truly a thorn in the flesh of our conscience as a nation.

I am of the strong opinion that the plight of these people who are escaping war and conflicts in parts of the world like Yemen and Syria is terrible enough and does not need to be driven home or highlighted by some Pulitzer Prize winning photographs of a child lying dead on a sandy beach in a free country like the UK.

Whilst we can observe that our government is doing a lot of commendable work to control the spread of Covid-19 and reduce the number of people dying as a result of this terrible disease, I am of  the opinion the same should be done to prevent deaths at sea of people who are attempting to cross the channel. 

Families are torn apart from these tragedies. These are men and women who are  fleeing from their countries and getting in cramped inflatable boats to cross the channel in order to seek a better life for their families, yet some die before getting to their destinations. 

Yes, the people who take the chance with their families to cross the channel often know the risks that are involved. The fact that they are still willing to do so to seek out a better life in the UK shows how desperate they are to reach a country that can offer them a safe place to live and work.

We do not know their experiences and why they so desperately want to flee from their country they were born in. They could be running away for many different reasons, like war, genocide, abuse, or for their sexual orientation. Some have family ties here or just prefer to live in a country that speaks English. But clearly people who travel in dangerous waters to the UK in small inflatable boats are not here to become rich. They come because in their home country they are not safe, and believe they have a better chance of life in the UK.

I think our government can prevent these tragedies by intensifying the efforts to solve conflicts in the countries of origin of the asylum seekers. I also think they could do more to improve the asylum process for those who do make it safely to shore. At the moment, some who arrive here are disappointed because it is not  the picture gangmasters and exploiters painted in their minds.

When asylum seekers are picked up crossing the English channel they are usually taken to holding centres to be assessed and the ones with legitimate claims are allowed to stay. While waiting for their asylum request to be considered by the Home Office they may be put in accommodation anywhere in the UK.

They are not allowed to work or claim most benefits. Because usually they have no other money to support themselves, many end up destitute. Although they can apply to receive Asylum Support, it is just £37.75 per week: that is approximately £5.39 per day to help pay for things like food, clothing and toiletries. 

According to the government website approximately only 42 percent of asylum seekers including dependents were granted protection or other forms of leave to remain or resettlement. This seems low to me - maybe this low percentage is down to the pandemic. Meanwhile, the boats are still coming with people seeking safety for themselves and their families.

About the author

My name is Althia Loraine Barnett, and I Live in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham with my husband Anthony. I was born in Jamaica, I am a wife, mother and grandmother, I love to cook, bake and also try my hand at craftwork. I came to live in the UK 19 years ago. I worked as a dinner lady cleaner, care worker, and school bus guide with  Birmingham City Council. I was schooled in Jamaica, I didn’t finish high school so I developed my education by reading and practicing writing  from other educational sources.

I came into journalism by attending a Media Lab meeting with a friend and it started from there. My writing style is around migrant-related stories, current affairs and opinion pieces. My new found love in journalism is to see myself writing articles for well established news corporations.

My ambition is to write articles that will attract the most advanced organisations who might be looking for new and exciting writers with different writing styles. My belief is we should always look out for each other, as this world was created in the image of  the rainbow, we come in different colours, shapes and sizes if we mix them together what a wonderful world this would be to live in.

This article is part of our Voices of the Economy series. The project brings together the economic experiences and opinions of people from a range of different backgrounds and showcases voices which are not heard as often when we talk about the economy. To find out more and share your own story click here.

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