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  • Writer's pictureSarah Taal

The dangerous reality for many people seeking protection over land and sea, and how to change it.

The reality for many people fleeing conflict, exploitation and abuse is they see and experience as much or more violence on their journeys as at home. They hope and pray for a better life, which may never come or take's many years. Journeys across the sea are out of the frying pan into a fire scenarios; people put their lives in the hands of smugglers and traffickers as their lives are not worth living where they are. No-one leaves home, does a death defying journey, losing dignity and self definition for no reason. The migrants who lost their lives last night are the most recent souls highlighting why we need system change. Deails of the tragedy reported by the Guardian here.

Many East African migrants crossing the Sahara live undocumented in Lybia where there's blatent racist abuse, prison ransoms and forced labour jobs. The Mediterranean escape is a vast expanse of water, where people are left on boats without drivers or engines floating nowhere, baking in the sun, dehydrating to death. The New Odessy is worth a read for more info on journeys to Europe.

In Europe most women experience rape from smugglers, traffickers, and / or other refugees and migrants, Birmingham Uni's SEREDA Project will publish findings on gender based violence for refugees very soon. Some women we work with believe the UK is going to be safe, more often journeys are controlled by traffickers and smugglers getting them to a promised 'better life'. The English Channel is dangerous, the busy shipping channel, freezing water and overcrowded, tiny dinghies are not something publicised to those making the journey. A woman with 4 kids who came across the channel during the summer told me 'if i had known what it was like i would never have come'. Is it safer than the lorries people stowed away in before? When the outcome is worth the risk, smugglers and traffickers will always have willing people asking them for help.

If the Nationality and Borders Bill passes, we will continue to see these tragedies. They will happen until we have a global system of free movement and equity of wealth globally. The environmental crisis is going to make this much much worse. Governments are responsible for what we are seeing as they created and control borders. Smugglers and traffickers exist because our world works on the basis of connections, money and capital, migrants who are not safe, or want a better life pay those with networks for an opportunity. They have to trust these people as there are few safe legal routes for them to migrate. The government needs to acknowledge that we are all human. Our nationality should not define our ability to travel. The colonial legacy, and recent foreign policy actions, for example Afghanistan and Iraq 'democratic interventions' created refugees and migrants. We need to stop meddling in other countries' politics, and allow people to flow in and out the UK.

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