What makes a young couple and their 11-month daughter want to risk crossing the Channel in a cram-packed dinghy in such intolerable heat? In this case the Iranian father, Kamal Sadeghi, is a Christian convert and says he is fleeing Iran because his wife’s parents objected to their marriage. They had hoped to stay in Slovenia but had life savings stolen by the local mafia.

The Sadeghis are one of the many families and other individuals who are caught up in the latest spat between Britain and France over the sudden rise in the number of migrants escaping the Calais camps and arriving illegally on the UK’s beaches. So far this month, 825 so-called migrants are believed to have made the perilous crossing. But it would be wrong to describe all of those crossing the Channel as illegal immigrants. Those who are here illegally will face deportation, but a fair proportion will be legitimate asylum seekers from countries – such as Iran – which pose a threat to their lives or their safety. Some will be homosexuals, others will be from religious minorities such as Christianity, and many of them face death or imprisonment in their home countries. These genuine asylum seekers – such as the Sadeghis – will receive a fair hearing and, if successful, protection in the United Kingdom under the UN Refugee Convention.

Britain’s asylum process is practically the same as that in every other western nation. To be eligible you must be unable to go back to your country because you fear persecution. You must apply immediately, and once the forms are in you are assigned a meeting with an immigration officer, otherwise known as a “screening”. Then you will have an interview with a caseworker. They will investigate, attempt to verify the claims, and make a decision within six months.

However, Home Office officials are not known to be lenient in their assessments. Between 2016 and 2018, 3,100 asylum claims from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender nationals from countries where same-sex acts are criminalised were denied. This included 1,197 applications from Pakistan, where homosexuality is punishable with life in prison. There have also been numerous cases of the unlawful detainment of claimants, as well as reports of personal performance targets discouraging caseworkers from approving claims. This process is not a walk in the park for asylum seekers.

The peculiarity with the Channel-crossers is that they made a choice to leave France, a safe country, to come to the UK. This should raise questions about France’s treatment of refugees, but it is not necessarily grounds to send them back. A crucial distinction has been missed by those who claim the Dublin Convention obligates France to hold onto asylum seekers: the regulation requires asylum seekers to stay in the first country in which their asylum application is processed, not the first safe country in which they arrive.

There isn’t much, then, that Britain can do by itself to end the flow across the Channel. It will ultimately come down to how determined France is to stop treacherous dinghies from departing their shores. Given that the Mayor of Calais today described Priti Patel’s threat to use the Navy as “a declaration of maritime war”, as well as the general distrust between London and Paris, there doesn’t appear to be an appetite for a comprehensive plan. French politicians also have to navigate difficult domestic politics; the British government is essentially asking them to defend the UK’s border using their own taxpayers’ money.

With little hope of an extensive Franco-British agreement in the immediate term, the government’s focus will inevitably shift to the root of the problem: the flow of refugees across the Mediterranean. This is a popular route for people fleeing the horrors of the civil wars in Syria and Libya. It is also dominated by human traffickers. They extort exorbitant amounts of money from vulnerable outcasts, usually amounting to life savings, before placing them on overcrowded boats. Some make it across to Italy or Greece, but many drown in capsized or unseaworthy vessels.

Europe’s answer to this in recent years has been to set up centres in north Africa and the Middle East for asylum applications to be submitted and processed, thus reducing the incentive for genuine refugees to seek the support of traffickers. It has successfully reduced the numbers making the treacherous journey, but there of course remain some who distrust the inland process. It is difficult to see how Britain will encourage a renewed Europe-wide effort on the basis of one or two-hundred people crossing the channel daily, especially in the context of being seen to deliver on the promise of greater border controls after Brexit.

More likely, the story will fade as the news agenda reignites in the autumn. The flow across the Channel has been a consistent problem for years (Sajid Javid declared it a “major incident” in December 2018) but only tends to work its way up the national agenda when newspapers are experiencing a drought. We should expect this sense of acute crisis to become a yearly news feature.

The Channel – a route to the second largest economy in Europe, one of the greatest capitals and some of the best universities in the history of the world – will continue to have a red-dinghy problem for as long as people fleeing war see Britain as a destination of hope.