LONDON: The UN has urged the UK government to restart its refugee settlement scheme following the deaths of an Iranian-Kurdish family who drowned while trying to cross the English Channel earlier this week.
Rasul Iran Nezhad, his wife Shiva Mohammad Panahi and two of their children died when a boat carrying refugees capsized off the coast of France on Tuesday.
The incident led to calls for the UK to create safe, legal methods for migrants to travel to Britain.
One option is a potential upgrade to the UK global resettlement scheme, which transfers refugees from an asylum country to Britain for permanent settlement. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) monitors and grants refugee status.
The scheme, suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic, normally settles about 5,000 refugees per year in Britain.
“The UNHCR hopes that resettlement to the UK will restart soon, once reception capacity is confirmed and any remaining logistical issues related to the pandemic are overcome by the authorities,” said UNHCR UK representative Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor.
“The tragic events in the Channel this week demonstrate the need for concerted international efforts to address the complex root causes of displacement. Reopening and expanding legal pathways for more refugees to come to the UK in safety is one tangible way that this country can help.”
Pagliuchi-Lor’s comments come as the UNHCR launches a program demonstrating the benefits of the UK community sponsorship program, which allows community groups to support refugee families in the country.
“Community sponsorship is transformative. It provides refugee families with a support network to help them adapt, learn and become independent,” she said.
“But it also has a real effect on local volunteers, binding them together in a common cause and allowing them to be part of the global solution to forced displacement.”
About 7,400 people arrived in the UK in boats this year, nearly four times as many as last year. On Sept. 2, a record 416 people landed on British shores.
There are other options that the UK government can consider, including cross-border family reunions, which are the best way to reduce Channel crossings, UNHCR-associated groups have said.
But the government recently rejected amendments to the immigration bill that would have meant British rights to family reunion continued after the Brexit transition period.