The big story of the week, before word spread that the Chinese have developed a new version of Covid, code-named omicron, in a desperate effort to get around our vaccines, was the death of 27 illegal migrants in the English Channel on Wednesday. Sadly, the loss of life was as avoidable as it was predictable.
At some time on Wednesday morning 29 illegal migrants, each of whom appears to have been a visa national and none of whom were in possession of a valid visa to enter the UK, or carrying identity documents, boarded a zodiac on a beach near Dunkirk. So far as we know none was wearing a life jacket, nor did the rigid inflatable have adequate safety equipment. French police were probably aware of what was happening, but with limited exceptions they are encouraging illegal emigration to England.
The illegals had probably transited through Germany. So far as is known they spent very little time in France. The whole operation was controlled by a people-smuggling gang based in Germany, probably with links to the DVD.
Even though the Channel was comparatively calm that morning on any view this was a dangerous crossing. About halfway across the overloaded zodiac, which was probably purchased second-hand and not in seaworthy condition, started to sink. So far as we know it didn’t capsize, that is to say it simply lost buoyancy.
Since RNLI lifeboats and Border Force boats are under instructions to assist illegal migration by rendezvousing halfway across the Channel with the boats carrying illegals it’s unlikely that the party was actually intending to reach England. Boats only need to get halfway across usually, but on Wednesday there was no official reception for them.
There was no way that the zodiac, overloaded and unseaworthy as it was, was going to make it all the way across. Unhappily 27 of the illegals drowned. There were only two survivors, who were rescued by a French fishing boat, hopefully fishing with a license.
One of the survivors has claimed that the zodiac was rammed by a container vessel, but none was seen on the fishing boat’s radar. I’ve been on the bridge of a fishing boat at sea, maintaining a radar watch. Most small commercial radars are pretty efficient, operating usually in X or S bands. These days they all have Plan Position Indicators, readily showing other vessels in the vicinity. The range can be adjusted as need be.
It seems as though the fishing boat came upon the scene soon after the zodiac sank. Apart from anything else the survivors, lacking life jackets, wouldn’t have lasted very long in the water, given the sea temperature at this time of year. It’s very unlikely that the zodiac was rammed and far more likely that the trafficking gang simply instructed the lucky survivor to make a false claim of ramming in an effort to focus blame away from the traffickers.
The Geneva Refugee Convention
I probably have more experience in applying the 1951 Refugee Convention than anyone in the UK available to speak to the media, serving immigration judges of course being gagged. I drafted my first refugee application as long ago as 1986. I went on to argue a number of cases as a barrister before being made a part-time chairman of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal, in 1992.
In 1995 I was made a Special Adjudicator, designated to hear asylum appeals. By the end of the 1990s I was sitting more often than any part-time judge in the UK, over 100 days a year. A typical first instance asylum list might consist of four evidentiary appeals. As an appellate judge I might have been asked to deal with 20 applications for leave to appeal on the papers in a day. However, thirty-five years’ experience is apparently not enough to persuade the media to consult me! (There can hardly be a journalist in the UK who still thinks that my bogus 2014 convictions are real.)
The MSM turned instead to commentators who know almost nothing about the subject. BBC’s Question Time on Thursday night was a classic example. The bewildered panellists, no offense intended, none of whom was an immigration lawyer, knew no more about this complex subject than the audience.
There is almost no chance at all that any of the unfortunates who drowned on Wednesday had an arguable claim for asylum. Most of them appear to have been Iraqi nationals. Whilst Iraq is an Iranian client state and unstable, before an applicant for refugee status can succeed he or she needs to demonstrate that they do not have an internal flight option. Although the recipient state normally needs to raise the issue, in practice the onus of proof falls on the applicant to show that there is no safe place in their own country to which they can go,
In reality these poor people were either trying to better their economic circumstances, albeit probably at the expense of the indigenous labour force, or were trying to join friends or relations already in the UK. One woman known to have died was apparently trying to join a man variously described as her husband or fiancé. His status in the UK has not been revealed, although on his own admission he was in communication with the smugglers.
The reality is that these were illegal migrants, engaged in an enterprise which was as criminal as it was dangerous. Anyone with any humanity feels for the children but with every respect none of the adults had any business being on that rickety boat.
Stopping the traffickers
Since the deaths on Wednesday the left and the MSM have been in competition with each other to come up with the most unworkable solution to the problem. The government is blaming the French, whilst the French are blaming the government.
President Macron wants to punish Britain for Brexit. There’s no way that he’s going to instruct the French police to stop the boats, or take back the people who have already made it to the UK. Blaming Brexit is a side-wind. The EU’s 1990 Dublin Convention, since updated twice, never worked. Pitifully few asylum seekers were returned to France, for example.
I well remember hearing Dublin cases. They were mostly a farce. The Dublin nonsense continued for over 20 years, until the UK finally left the failing EU.
The Fifth Republic is essentially Vichyist. I’m not sure with respect that any member of the Cabinet has grasped this. They talk as though they were dealing with the Free French. The French people may be nice, but the Germans are quite nice people too, on the whole. (Adolf Hitler wasn’t that nice, I’m afraid.) Paris doesn’t really go in for consultations with the French people however. France is governed in the German, not the French, interest.
There’s not the slightest prospect of the French taking anyone back and there’s no point in asking them. Those who are already here will need to be removed to their own countries, assuming that they do not qualify for asylum.
If countries like Iraq refuse to take back their own nationals then a declaration of restricted returnability should be made. Taking Iraq as an example, Iraqi passports would no longer be valid for travel to the UK and Iraqi nationals here would be obliged to return home within say 90 days. Baghdad would soon change its mind!
The only solution is to scrap the pull factors which encourage people to try and reach the UK illegally in the first place. First and foremost of these is the UK’s continued adherence to the obsolete Refugee Convention.
Under Article 44 the Convention may be denounced on one years’ notice. At the same time the UK should withdraw the right of appeal from anyone arriving without a valid visa, the situation which applied before 1993. My valued former colleague on the Immigration Appeal Tribunal, Ray Maddison, warned the Home Office at the time about the dangers of encouraging illegal entry. Sadly, the Home Office were overruled by the Cabinet Office, leading to hundreds, possibly thousands, of unnecessary deaths. The convention is now a killer convention.
Nothing in the Convention stops the UK from detaining someone who has entered the UK illegally, or attempted to do so, who has not travelled directly here from the country of alleged persecution. Where no travel document is produced and identity cannot be determined for sure, it will not usually be a case for bail.
At the same time the UK should repeal the failed Human Rights Act 1998 and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. That requires six months’ notice, under Article 58. We could also usefully withdraw from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has encouraged the unsafe and disreputable practice of child dumping.
The asylum benefits system, including free housing, should also be scrapped. The boats would stop overnight. That would by the way reduce the threat from China’s new omicron variant. We have no idea of the vaccination status of the idiots trying to cross the Channel in dinghies and zodiacs, no offense intended.
Of course this would require the replacement of that house-trained idiot, no offense intended, Boris Johnson, along with the Cabinet Secretary, Simon ‘von’ Case. Priti Patel, the able Home Secretary, would then be free to take control of Britain’s borders. The French would be left looking silly, or even sillier, no offense intended. They are not in any meaningful sense our allies and have not been since they surrendered to our community partners the Nazis on June 22nd 1940.
The Bishop of Liverpool
I’m not sure that GO2 and the Cabinet Office fully thought through their cunning but evil plan to have one of their tame Islamic nutters blow up the Bishop of Liverpool in his own cathedral on Remembrance Sunday. Knocking off bishops in their own cathedrals is a bad idea. You shouldn’t really be going around knocking off bishops at all of course, not Anglican bishops at any rate, although you might away with the odd Methodist.
Poor old King Henry II is still getting flack for having Thomas a Becket bumped off in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170, and Archbishop Thomas was a right nuisance, no offense intended, indeed His Grace was reporting to the Pope, Alexander III. His Holiness promptly canonised the murdered Archbishop of course. (Archbishops of Canterbury are supposed to report to the King, and through Him to Almighty God.)
Had Bishop Paul been assassinated as planned by the failed asylum seeker Emad Al Swealmeen consideration would have to have been given to canonising the bishop as a martyr. Now I say nothing against Bishop Paul. I gather he’s a lovely chap, with respect, and he’s been a good bishop, although he hasn’t reached the heights of his distinguished predecessor David Sheppard, who scored 113 against Australia at Melbourne on Ted Dexter’s tour. (Possession of a good cover drive virtually guarantees preferment in the Anglican Church, and rightly so.)
Even the Bishop’s stoutest supporters probably wouldn’t rate his prospects of canonisation as higher than Tranmere Rovers’ prospects of promotion to the Premier League, no offense intended. Martyrdom in his own cathedral however would have changed all that.
Michael Shrimpton was a barrister from his call to the Bar in London in 1983 until being disbarred in 2019 over a fraudulently obtained conviction. He is a specialist in National Security and Constitutional Law, Strategic Intelligence and Counter-terrorism. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Intelligence Studies at the American Military University.