According to the mail online in an article first published at 10pm on Thursday “The crisis is a personal blow for the Home Secretary, who made a pledge last October that crossings would be virtually eliminated by now.” So her response now is to call on the Royal Navy to begin to spend time in the Channel attempting to turn boats back towards France to try to prevent them from arriving on our coast. We need to take a major step back and begin to try to understand why so many people who have already travelled many thousands of miles from their homes, trying to get away from warfare and violence end up either feeling that the UK is the safest and best place for them to set of for, or else being obliged by the people who offer them a way to escape their place of violence that they must come to the UK. There are a major number of issues to deal with but turning small and dangerous boats back to France will not solve any of the problems. Some of our people may prefer these people not to arrive, but they are still coming in very small numbers by comparison to the people arriving in places like Lesvos in Greece which at the end of last year UNHCR had stated that there were more than 21,000 asylum seekers and refugees on Lesvos, including some 1,050 unaccompanied minors, many of whom are sleeping in the unofficial ‘jungle’, as there isn’t enough space for them in the designated safe zone. That statement came from a friend of mine who is currently working in Lesvos. So by comparison during the whole of last year in the UK 1,850 people arrived by boat in the UK according to the Mail and so far this year the number is 3,643. So given that the people in Lesovos are being assessed and some are being accepted in to Greece and some are being sent back after they have been assessed the prospect of the UK ever facing even a quarter of the Greek challenge is inconceivable and of course we have much more resources than Greece has.
Any Minister with human sensitivity would recognise that the people trying to get to our shore and the people arriving at Lesovos and indeed in the many other parts of the world near where conflict is taking place are people that our many safe nations should be trying to help. Our use of the Royal Navy should be to protect the people in the boats and we should be working with France and any other Channel based nation where these people are starting of from to avoid them setting off in boats, while at the same time agreeing to assist those nations who have groups of people on their coast who are clearly intending to try to get to our nation. Anyone who has made it to the North of France and is clearly trying to get to the UK should be helped by the UK rather than assuming that the Channel can deal with them. As the Mail published:
The Home Secretary has said she wants ‘stronger enforcement’ on the other side of the Channel and has been trying to persuade the French government to allow migrant boats to be turned back. She said last year that a previous deal with the French would make crossings an ‘infrequent phenomenon’ by this spring. It came as an inquiry was launched into the crisis by the Commons all-party home affairs committee. MPs will begin their investigation when Parliament returns at the start of September. A committee spokesman said: ‘The inquiry will look at the role of criminal gangs in facilitating the growth of this form of illegal immigration and the response of UK and French authorities to combat illegal migration and support legal routes to asylum.’
I think it is fascinating that MPs who are supposed to be able to work even when Parliament is closed down are nevertheless waiting till it reopens before they start their committee. They could do that now! Priti Patel certainly needs to work with France in a way that tries to end boats leaving but once any have left it is clearly something we need to do to avoid people risking drowning between our two nations. Ideally we should be working to collect them long before they arrive on our coast and at the same time trying to help them as they are clearly facing a great many challenges and we are all part of the same world that they are part of. The millions moving around in other parts of the world are the real concern. A few hundred or even a few thousand by comparison are numbers we are well capable of assisting. I am very grateful to Paul Cardwell and Teresa Crawford for their tweets. We need to raise this issue much higher than the alternative and appalling claims by a number of other high profile people.