Child refugee who made Channel crossing in dinghy questions Sir Keir Starmer on Labour’s asylum plans


2023-03-10 18:18:00

Sir Keir Starmer has told an 11-year-old refugee from Iran who made the hazardous Channel crossing in a dinghy there should be safe routes for asylum seekers to come to the UK.

The Labour leader was quizzed over his party’s migration plans by Arvin, who said his family had “no choice” but to make the perilous journey from Calais by small boat.

He said his family had been forced to leave their home in Iran for their safety.

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More than 3,000 people have already made the dangerous sea journey this year. File pic

Arvin asked Sir Keir, if he became prime minister, whether he would work with the French to “provide a safe route to the UK for genuine refugees like me”.

Speaking on the Sky News children’s current affairs show FYI, to be broadcast this weekend, the opposition politician agreed there should be secure passages to stop both desperate people putting themselves in danger and the criminal smuggling gangs making money from their “misery”.

His comments come as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak held talks in Paris with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron aimed at bolstering efforts to tackle the small boats crisis.

The UK will help fund a detention centre in France, along with extra patrols, to reduce the number of crossings, it was announced on Friday.

More than 3,000 people have already made the dangerous sea journey this year, with almost 46,000 arriving by unofficial routes in 2022.

Earlier in the week, the Tory government unveiled controversial plans to curb Channel crossings which would see refugees arriving by boats detained, removed and banned for life from claiming asylum in the UK.

In response, Sir Keir accused the Conservative administration of offering “the same old gimmicks and empty promises”.

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While the government has schemes in place for a limited number of Afghans, Ukrainians and people from Hong Kong, critics point out there is no legal route for asylum seekers from many other dangerous parts of the world.

Arvin asked Sir Keir if a future Labour government would seek to establish further safe passage for refugees.

He said: “Hi, I’m Arvin. I’m from Iran and I’m a refugee in the UK.

“We ended up in Calais in France and then we had no choice but to cross the English Channel in a dinghy towards England like so many families before us.

“Mr Starmer, the government says that they want to work with the French authorities to stop people reaching the UK on a boat like my family did.

“But what about working with the French to provide a safe route to the UK for genuine refugees like me. Would you do that?”

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Responding, the Labour leader said: “In this country, we’ve always been very welcoming of refugees for many, many years with different conflicts and things going on in the world.

“We should have safe passages, in answer to the question, for people to get here.

“Going across the Channel in a boat is not a safe route and behind that there are criminal gangs who are running those routes.

“And so they are making money out of the misery of people who are in a desperate, desperate situation.

“So we need safe routes so we don’t have unsafe routes like the Channel crossings and we don’t allow those gangs to exploit people, put them in that awfully dangerous situation.”

:: Watch FYI on Sky News at 10.30am, 2.30pm and 4.30pm on Saturday and 10.30am and 2.30pm on Sunday.

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