Why ‘stronger borders’ don’t work

Why ‘stronger borders’ don’t work


Every year, thousands of people die trying
to cross borders. At times, the stark reality of this
becomes front page news like the picture of three-year-old Alan Kurdi,
lying face down on a Turkish beach, or when 39 people were found dead
in a lorry in Essex. But the same old logic seems to hold: that
stricter border checks and a more hostile asylum and immigration system, would stop
people from making these dangerous journeys. We must not encourage people who want
to become refugees in Britain to come over the oceans. But some say stronger borders are actually
the problem, not the solution. To understand why,
let’s look at how asylum works. When someone flees their home country because
of war or persecution, they’ll likely try to seek asylum in another country. Being given asylum means being able to stay
and live your life in this new country. This is covered by the Refugee Convention,
which defines what a refugee is and is the basis for refugee rights internationally. In most cases, you must be in the destination
country to ask for asylum, which means you have to get there first before you apply. But getting to that country in a safe and
legal way can be near-impossible. Visas and checks make it difficult for people
seeking asylum to move, and globally, countries are building more walls and fences along their
borders. In Europe, governments have closed down legal
routes and made deals with other countries to stop people from getting to the EU. Really strict border controls do literally
stop people from arriving and being able to make an application for asylum. But on the
other hand, it doesn’t make them somehow disappear. The most vulnerable people are seeking for
safety so strengthening the borders makes things much more dangerous People die. They drown in the sea. They die
in their tents in Calais. One network of human rights groups has said
that more than 36,000 deaths can be put down to “border militarisation, asylum
laws, detention policies and deportations.” Tighter borders are making it more difficult
for people to safely claim asylum, forcing them to rely on smugglers and risk their lives. ‘I wish that there was somehow a way
to get to our destinations legally’ So why are governments still arguing stronger
borders are the answer? If we look at the UK, they say it’s about pull factors. “We must be aware of pull factors” “The potential pull factors” “Remove all these pull factors” Pull factors are the supposed things that
attract people to move to a particular country. “You’ve got a swarm of people coming across
the Mediterranean, wanting to come to Britain because Britain has got jobs, it’s a growing
economy, it’s an incredible place to live” Although the UK has a tiny proportion of refugees,
the asylum system has been made stricter to dissuade people from coming. That means as well as making it more difficult
for people to get here, from the 2000s onwards policies have been made harsher for people
when they are here. For instance, since 2002 people waiting on
their asylum claim aren’t allowed to work and for those eligible they are entitled to
only £37.75 per person, per week. And as well as that, there’s often a high
burden of proof to show you’re a refugee. There is a culture of disbelief in the Home
Office which means that if they make a slight error in dates retelling their stories again
and again to so many different agencies then they are penalised and there’s no understanding
of the psychological trauma. One of the women that I spoke
to said, ‘It’s not what happened to me in my home country that broke me,
but what happened to me here’. Politicians claimed stricter rules would deter
people from coming. But this doesn’t add up. While there’s plenty of proof of push factors –
things like war, genocide and human rights violations that force people to leave their
home – there’s little evidence for pull factors. Studies have shown people usually don’t come
here with prior knowledge of the asylum system or to take from the system. One of the weird things about the pull factors is
this idea of people who seek asylum as being people who are in country A and they have
access to perfect information about all possible places they could go and they have the resources
to go to those places. When in reality people have extremely constrained resources, constrained
information, then when they set off, along the way they’ll meet all sorts of people
who will change their journeys in various ways. So it’s not that people are out to get what
they can – their decision to try to get to a particular country can be driven by all
kinds of complex factors, including very basic needs, like having family there
or knowing the language. Yet funding for search and rescue missions
in the Mediterranean was cut because they were seen as a pull factor – encouraging people
to make the dangerous crossing because there was the possibility of being rescued. But getting rid of those patrols hasn’t
stopped everyone from attempting the journey. In 2019 an estimated 1,317 people died
trying to cross the Mediterranean. So the argument that asylum can be understood
through ‘pull factors’ seems weak. I’ve interviewed a lot of civil servants,
in fact, about this, and they know that there is no evidence, but they just say the politicians are very committed to it because it makes
common sense to the public. People decide to take these risks because
there are no formal or safe ways of trying to get to a country. You have people putting you in the back of the lorries
sometimes in the fridges and the freezers. And then people start coughing and
then freezing, this is where you have to knock and knock and knock and be at the mercy of
the smugglers to come and get you out. This isn’t only an issue for people seeking
asylum. People who have to move because of poverty or climate breakdown aren’t covered
by the refugee convention. But they’re also faced with borders, and countries hostile
to them. Solutions could include huge international
resettlement of refugees and making routes of travel safer and easier. It’s often said that countries like the UK aren’t
‘doing enough’ when it comes to people making dangerous crossings. But the reality is, they’re doing a lot
– it’s just that they’re making movement more difficult and so more dangerous. Thank you for watching this video. There’s a lot that
we couldn’t include in what is a complex subject. But one of the things often obscured in the debate
is that it is people who are making these journeys, and their humanity is often lost or forgotten about
when talking about asylum. If you like these videos click subscribe,
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