UK lawmakers say plan to block migrants will endanger lives

A U.K. parliamentary committee on Wednesday criticized Britain's plans to deter migrants from crossing the English Channel, arguing such a move would lead to more tragedies like the one last week that killed dozens of migrants on a small boat. 

British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonBoris JohnsonUK lawmaker accuses government of blackmailing to keep Boris Johnson in power The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks UK's Johnson dismisses calls to resign over lockdown party MORE has proposed legislation that would allow authorities to turn away migrants on boats in the English Channel. The policy, known as The Nationality and Borders Bill, would also make it more difficult for people to claim asylum in addition to permitting asylum-seekers to be screened abroad, according to The Associated Press.

On Wednesday, the U.K. Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights called the proposal “a policy of pushbacks” that could conflict with existing maritime and international human rights laws. 

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“Pushbacks are known to endanger lives at sea,” the committee's report said. “This is even more so when dealing with people on small, unseaworthy vessels, in a busy shipping lane, often with rough waters, without appropriate lifesaving equipment, as is the case for migrants in small boats in the Channel.”

The proposal came after at least 31 migrants died last week trying to cross the English Channel, a major waterway between France and Britain known for its strong currents.

But Johnson is facing increasing pressure to step in as more migrants travel to his country. 

Over 25,000 people have reached Britain on small boats in 2021. In 2020, 8,500 migrants arrived via boat in Britain compared to just 300 in 2018, the wire service reported.

One migrant who survived last week's tragic event said the group called authorities on both sides of the channel — neither of which offered help. 

"We sent our location to the French police, and they said, you are in British waters. So, we were inside British waters and called the British police for help, but they said call the French police," Mohammed Ibrahim Zada, who is a Kurdish migrant from Iran, said to Kurdish Rudaw media, according to the AP.

Britain’s Home Office rejected the claim that they did not respond to the migrants' call for help, the AP noted.