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The truth about whether there were safer routes to UK than baby Artin used

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Original article from Kent Live

Earlier this month, Norweigan police confirmed a baby's body found on a beach was that of Artin Iran-Nejad.

The 15-month-old boy had died along with four family members when the inflatable boat they were travelling in sank in the middle of the English Channel.

Like thousands of others, they would have been aiming straight at the White Cliffs of Dover.

READ MORE: Dover lorry park delayed

This week, more details surfaced in relation to the circumstances of the family and Artin's final days.

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According to reports, they were ethnic Kurds – a group of people well known to face severe political persecution and vast economic disparity in the Middle East.

The situation has reportedly deteriorated further since the US reimposed international sanctions on Iran.

Sardasht, where the family were from, near to the Iraqi border, has one of the highest unemployment rates in the entire continent.

Meanwhile Artin’s father — described as "modest, kind and hardworking" — had no formal education and, like most Kurds, struggled to eke out a living, but tried to do so as a labourer on a chicken farm.

Undated handout photo issued by the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights of (left to right) Rasoul Iran-Nejad, 35, Shiva Mohammad Panahi, 35, Anita, nine, and Armin, six, named as the four members of the Kurdish-Iranian family who died when their boat sank

The family tried to find a better life in Britain, and eventually made it to a makeshift camp in a piece of woodland in Dunkirk, France.

A video has surfaced taken in the woods, showing the family trying to teach English words to Artin.

As the brief clip comes to an end, the little boy whispers two words as he waves to the camera — "Bye, bye".

They were the only English words he would ever learn.

Baby Artin and his family were not the first to die making the perilous journey across the English Channel, and they probably won't be the last.

New government proposals will clamp down on the people that flee their home countries, forced to make dangerous border and sea crossings.

But their story has raised fresh questions about safer asylum routes, so that fewer people feel forced to make it.

And it means an uncomfortable truth has emerged about the safe routes available when Artin and his family died.

There weren't any.

The Government set up a resettlement scheme in 2014, allowing asylum applications to be made from outside the UK, so people wouldn't have to make the dangerous journeys.

We became a proud world leader for safer asylum routes, with an average of over 5,000 people allowed safely into Britain each year between 2016 and 2020.

It all came to end in early 2020 – when the Government paused the scheme as the pandemic took hold.

Some questioned the move at the time.

They said testing and quarantining rules could have been used – and in fact were on the thousands who ended up arriving here after crossing the English Channel anyway.

A new resettlement scheme wasn't opened until this year, shortly after Artin and his family drowned in the Channel.

Our recent average intake of over 5,000 became just 823 last year.

Border Force pictured down the coast in Kent last year

Even under the new scheme, Home Office figures show that 345 refugees were resettled in the UK in the first quarter of this year.

If the trend continues, the UK's final total for 2021 will still be less than a third of the recent annual average.

No-one will ever know if Artin and his family would have been one of the 4,000 or so extra people who would have come to the UK safely in a normal year.

But their circumstances suggest they would have at least had a credible asylum claim.

This week, MyDover asked the Home Office why it had waited so long to set up a new scheme for safe legal routes.

They sent us a fact sheet, refusing to answer the specific question.

Most people acknowledge that they face a difficult task.

Even with the new resettlement scheme in place, more than 5,000 have tried to cross the English Channel to reach Dover already this year.

But it's also true that the sharp increase in crossings coincided with the closure of the resettlement scheme last year.

Another truth is that the new scheme coincided with the tragedy that befell Artin and his family.

As attempts to reach Dover continue with the improved weather, few are pretending there is an easy solution.

However, there at least seems to finally be agreement that safe routes is a part of it.

Original Article