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On the 23 October the bodies of 39 people were found in the back of a lorry. 8 women and 31 men lost their lives to people smugglers who likely promised them safe passage to the UK in exchange for large sums of money.
Currently Maurice Robinson and Eamonn Harrison, two Irish lorry drivers, have been arrested and charged; Mr Robinson with manslaughter, people trafficking, illegal immigration and money laundering. Further arrests of eight Vietnamese individuals have also been made. Essex police have since stated that all the 39 people were Vietnamese and not Chinese, which was the original assumption.
This tragedy is a reminder of how the immigration policy of the UK needs to change. By closing off borders to migrants, it allows people smugglers to exploit the most vulnerable. Migrants are being forced to take a massive gamble which, as we have seen, can lead to disaster and loss on a large scale. Fears of Brexit have made the situation much worse; people smugglers are using the uncertainty about the UK’s immigration policy to pressure migrants to cross the border. Tighter border controls are only going to make the situation worse and implementing tougher punishments for lorry drivers isn’t going to help the situation either; punishing those who may be unaware of the migrants on their truck just seems nonsensical. Working with migrants on legal ways to enter the UK seems to be a better solution.
According to the International Organization of Migrants, 17,480 migrants have drowned worldwide trying to cross over to a safer country since 2014. The lorry that the 39 bodies were in was a refrigerated unit, meaning that the temperature could get as low as -25c which just gives a glimpse into the awful conditions people are willing to travel in. Migrants are human beings just like us and need to be treated with the respect they deserve. People willing to make these journeys are fleeing for a better life, including fleeing from conflict and religious prosecution for example. The continuous negative press about migrants is not helping. Nick Thorpe, the BBC’s Eastern European correspondent, commented that ‘’Since 2016, there have been fewer and fewer ways to enter Western Europe legally - hence the desperation of those on the road’’. By using stricter border control, those who are already in a vulnerable position will have to further endanger their lives further in order to reach a safer place to call home.
In 2017 there were a total of 27,814 asylum cases in the UK, 19,259 of which were refused. The Calais Jungle was home to around 1,000 people before it was bulldozed in 2016, it showed the world the dreadful conditions the refugees had to suffer in order to get a chance to cross over to the UK. If more is not done to help refugees, then history will just keep repeating itself. It is unrealistic to say that the UK should allow every migrant to enter the country, but we should be allocating more resources and support to those seeking asylum.
The country’s attitude towards migrants needs to change, the media has blasted out continuous propaganda about the negative effects of immigration but hardly ever reports on the positives. No one should be made to feel that their only chance for a better life is to pay large sums of money to people smugglers who cannot guarantee them a safe journey to the UK.