What would ‘Brexit’ mean for refugees?
As campaigning in Britain’s referendum on EU membership gets into full swing, refugees and migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa find themselves caught up in the “Brexit” debate.
Campaigners say politicians have mixed up the issues of refugees, economic migrants, and Britain’s possible departure from the European Union in a way that has often confused the real issues.
Asylum seekers – who are likely to continue to push towards Britain in large numbers regardless of the EU vote – must be processed according to international law, which has nothing to with Britain’s membership of the EU, said Zoe Gardner, a spokeswoman for London-based Asylum Aid.
Under the UN Refugee Convention, Britain is obliged to process people for asylum once they reach Britain. While a “Brexit” – Britain’s withdrawal from the EU – should not affect Britain’s obligations towards refugees, the issue of immigration has fed into the debate ahead of the June 23 vote.
If UK votes for Brexit,French minister claims. Thousands of Calais refugees will be allowed to cross Channel . It enables lorries to be searched and scanned for stowaways, with any migrants found arrested or removed from the area by police and drivers fined.
Moving the Border Force checks to the UK could mean that refugees would be the other side of the Channel before being discovered, giving them the right to apply for asylum and stay in the country until a decision is made.
David Cameron was accused of “scaremongering” when he claimed that a Brexit could see the camps move to Britain last month.
The Vote Leave campaign group said Downing Street’s warning that the French would “love to pull out” of the 2003 treaty had “no grounding in reality”, while Eurosceptic Tory MP David Davis branded the prospect “preposterous”.
At the time, the French interior ministry pointed to a statement by interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve saying there were “no plans” to change the agreement, which was drawn up as part of a bilateral treaty.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who supports remaining in the EU, has suggested that refugees and migrants living in a camp in the French town of Calais could flock to England if British voters decided to leave the bloc.
French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron stoked the argument by saying it would end border controls and let thousands of migrants move on to its neighbour if British voters backed “Brexit”.
“The day this relationship unravels, migrants will no longer be in Calais,” Macron told the Financial Times in March.
There are about 6,000 people in camps in Calais and Dunkirk hoping to come to Britain, according to research performed recently by Asylum Aid.
Though an end to the so-called Le Touquet agreement – which effectively shifts part of Britain’s border to Calais – is possible, the camps in Calais and Dunkirk will likely remain, said Caroline Woollard, secretary-general of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE).
“The border may switch to other side of the Channel, but [Britain] won’t provide the boats to get people over the sea so the camps will probably stay,” she said.
Regardless of the referendum outcome, Asylum Aid and other NGOs supporting refugees say Britain and the EU will still have to work together in creating a plan to deal with the surge of refugees.
Investors around the world went into crisis mode as British voters chose to leave the European Union in a stunning decision with far-reaching implications.
The pound plunged close to $1.33, its lowest level in more than 30 years, as the results of the referendum became clear. It’s now trading down around 9% near $1.37. The euro also fell heavily.
In the final count, 51.9% of votes were for leaving. Many investors had been betting on Brits choosing to stay. The surprise outcome caused immediate political shock waves, prompting Prime Minister David Cameron to announce his resignation.