The Bailiwicks: A Back Door to Britain?


Ahead of the broadcast of the second part of our special investigation into the refugee crisis, Jess Dunsdon looks at asylum in the islands.

You can watch the piece at 6pm on ITV Channel.

Asylum claims aren't an everyday occurrence in the Channel Islands.

Guernsey authorities tell me they've never received one and Jersey hadn't had one in more than two decades... until this year.

Back in January an Iranian migrant was found smuggled in the boot of his sister-in-law's car on the ferry from St Malo, after making the journey from the Calais jungle.

On arriving in Jersey, Amir Marreakhy was prosecuted for illegally entering the island and eventually given a ten week suspended prison sentence.

Amir Marreakhy was smuggled into Jersey in January

While the criminal case took its course, he also applied for asylum, saying his life would be at risk if returned to Iran.

Now this, caught the Jersey authorities off guard. They hadn't had an asylum claim for 21 years, which meant their policies and procedures weren't up to date.

Refugee charities accused the government of 'making things up as they went along' and 'washing their hands' of the responsibility for looking after Amir.

At best it was a chaotic response to an infrequent event, at worst, a deliberate effort not to set a precedent which would allow for future cases. Amir's successful asylum claim has caused some politicians like St Helier Deputy, Jackie Hilton, to suggest it could open the floodgates for migrants to use the island as a back door to Britain.

But from my investigation, the opposite seems to be true.

A refugee tries to stow away in a lorry in Calais

Amir's case has prompted the government to tighten up its asylum procedure.

There's now a tougher deal with France to send migrants back if they've arrived from there. And as long as they're returned within an agreed time frame, there'll be no grounds for asylum.

The key difference with Mr Marreakhy, was that the authorities chose to take criminal action, meaning he was here too long to be able to simply put him back on the ferry.

While stopping short of saying they wouldn't prosecute illegal migrants in future, Guernsey's Border Agency told me they would rather focus on facilitators.

I suspect, post Marreakhy, Jersey may well do the same.

It seems in practice therefore, the islands are anti-asylum.

Our governments are happy to give out aid to refugees abroad, they just don't want them to come here.

The question now is, in the greatest humanitarian crisis since the second world war, is that contribution enough?

More on this story