LONDON, Feb 7, (AFP): The Channel Island of Guernsey could not take in any of the Syrian refugees flooding Europe due to “Islamophobia” in the British dependency, its chief minister said. “Negativity” would make it difficult to provide them with security, Jonathan Le Tocq said, according to the BBC. “There’s certainly a lot of Islamophobia and negativity that’s been around and that would entail that it would be difficult for us to ensure that [the refugees] would find the sorts of security and stability here in Guernsey, were they to be resettled here, in the same way as they are, say, in other parts of the UK.” Guernsey’s policy council — part of its executive — announced Thursday that following a review of the island’s infrastructure, it could not take part in Britain’s relocation scheme for Syrians fleeing the fiveyear war in their homeland.
Guernsey, which lies in the English Channel around 50 kilometres (30 miles) off the north coast of France, has a population of around 65,000. The island is not a part of the United Kingdom but a British crown dependency with its own laws and parliament. “There are a number of legal and practical issues which have been identified recently relating to general refugee rights which must be fully understood and resolved, and certainly before Guernsey could participate in any UK driven refugee resettlement scheme,” the policy council said. Guernsey’s larger island neighbour Jersey, a fellow crown dependency, said in December it would not take in any Syrian refugees, citing legal issues that could threaten its ability to cope in future if it joined the UK scheme.
The Guernsey Overseas Aid Commission has provided £230,000 ($335,000, 300,000 euros) to agencies delivering aid in and around Syria since 2012, the policy council said. Meanwhile, four Iranian migrants making a rare attempt to reach Britain by boat from France on Saturday were rescued in the nick of time after their vessel took on water and was close to capsizing, officials said. Rescuers were only alerted after one of the migrants made it back to the beach at Sangatte in northern France before dawn.
He was in a dangerously cold state and asking for help for his four compatriots. A search was launched and the boat with the four men was located with the help of a Belgian army helicopter, the French coastguard said. “Around 5:30 am (0430 GMT), a migrant on the beach at Sangatte in a hypothermic condition requested help and indicated that he had been on a boat with four other people,” local authorities in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France told AFP.
The man told rescuers that he and the four others had been trying to make it to Britain. “Shortly after 7:00 am (0600 GMT) the little boat with the four men in it was located”, the coastguard said. “They were really in extremis, we saved their lives, because they were on the point of capsizing. There were terrible waves and the boat had filled with water,” said Bernard Barron, one of the rescuers. Gilles Debove, of the local police union, said it was “extremely unusual” for migrants to try to reach Britain by the sea route. “This must be the second or third time in 1-years,” he said.
“Crossing is very dangerous because it’s a maritime highway. The Channel and the North Sea, it’s not the Mediterranean.” The president of a local organisation supporting migrants, Christian Salome, told AFP he feared a rise in the number of attempted Channel crossings due to tighter security around the port of Calais making it more difficult for migrants to smuggle themselves across in lorries. Around 3,700 migrants, mostly from Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan live in the so-called “Jungle” shanty camp at Calais from where they hope to make the journey to Britain. A further 1,500 live in a camp at Grande-Synthe near Dunkirk