Priti Patel wants to remove videos of Channel crossings because they undermine the government’s narrative

'The UK received 158 applications per 1 million people living here, that ranks at 16th out of the 27 EU nations.'

Priti Patel

Tom Huggins-Teasdale is a writer for the Immigration Advice Service

The UK’s Home Secretary Priti Patel has asked social media platforms to remove videos and content that she feels will ‘glamourize’ attempts to cross the channel by asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants. 

While it is true that we see more and more images of migrants crossing from France to arrive on the shores of the UK, they go hand in hand with the images and stories of children washing up on European shorelines. In the face of this, nothing can glamourize the possibility of drowning in the English channel and to suggest otherwise is a disservice to those that have died in the attempt. 

So we’re left with the question of why the Home Office doesn’t want images relating to these crossings shared on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.  

First, we need to examine a few facts. Take a look at most articles that highlight this issue and you’ll probably find terms like ‘immigration crisis’ or ‘migrant flood’. This language is designed to tell us that the UK is suffering from an influx of unwanted, even dangerous people from other countries. The numbers however tell a different story. 

Between the first quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020, the UK received 43,665 first time applications for asylum. A few quick comparisons shows that this placed it as the 5th most applied to country in the EU at that time, behind Germany, Spain, France and Greece. Over 43,000 people might sound like a large amount but when you look at it in terms of the UK’s total population the figures become more interesting. 

Stacked against the UK’s population at that time, the UK received 158 applications per 1 million people living here, that ranks at 16th out of the 27 EU nations. In terms of percentage of population, if all the applications were granted that would only increase the UK’s total by 0.06%. It is also worth noting that roughly half of those applications were accepted so new asylum applications that year accounted for no more than a 0.03% increase in population. Can you think of many more examples where a 0.03% increase was a crisis?

Now, admittedly that accounts simply for the number of asylum applications, and while net migration is still the driving force behind the UK’s population growth, it is vitally important to remember that most migration is of economic benefit to the UK; or in other words, when people move to a country to work and start a new life, they pay taxes and contribute like those born there. 

Despite this, the Home Office continues to push an agenda focused on removals and reducing migration. At what point do we begin to question whether or not the danger people subject themselves to in order to reach the UK from France, is down to the difficulty caused by policy rather than an attempt to trick the system? 

The Home Office’s ‘Hostile Environment’ policy has aimed to make the UK a less hospitable place for migrants since its inception in 2012, when Theresa May was Home Secretary. Although some of the more blatant initiatives developed to aid in this, such as the ‘Go Home Vans’ have been discontinued, there are still plenty of ways in which migrants are told they aren’t welcome on the UK’s shores. 

From the right to rent scheme and vital services now requiring immigration status checks, to inadequate housing and the police handing over the details of vulnerable victims of crimes for removal, this policy has truly achieved its aim. 

In creating this hostile environment however, the Home Office has caused itself a bigger issue. Its policy is now tied to the right-wing myths of the migrant crisis. Any successful examples of someone claiming asylum are now seen as a failure. 

So, I ask again, why does the home secretary want videos of channel crossings removed? 

Each of them is potentially damaging to the support the government have worked so hard to build among the UK’s anti-immigrant right wing, and this is support that the conservative government cannot afford to lose.  

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