Driving back from a recent Council of Europe meeting in Strasburg, I came face to face with the everyday chaos at Calais. Queuing onto the motorway was a long line of stationary lorries surrounded by asylum seekers. Mainly of African appearance, they meandered across the motorway and openly tried to climb into lorries. Some drivers, possibly on double-crewed vehicles, were out of their cabs fighting them off.
In the fast lane to my right, cars sped by in the hope of getting past. They avoided the refugees by inches. There was no sign of police or customs officers and all this was happening at the tunnel rather then the port, which is apparently much worse.
Thousands of migrants are camped in appalling conditions around Calais. Hundreds of thousands more are trying to get across Europe to join them, with even greater numbers waiting on the shores of North Africa. Charities and churches are calling for us to let in everyone who wants to come, while staging protests at the relatively small number of deportations that take place. Sadly, I feel this only adds to the problem.
At present, those who end up in Europe can nearly always stay and this encourages many more to embark upon the dangerous journey. The time has come to make a difficult decision which would be in the best interests of all. The UK Government should finance the building of humane and comfortable refugee camps across the parts of North Africa from which refugees depart.
We should make it clear that applications to migrate to Europe will only be considered in these camps and those who are refused a visa will instead be returned to their country of origin. Importantly, all those in Europe found without valid papers should be returned to such a camp.
Once the message gets out that people found illegally in Europe will be humanely deported to a refugee camp, many of those risking their lives will stop doing so. The policy would be far more humane than the current one, which has led to a huge loss of life and created conditions of third world squalor in many European cities. It would be great if politicians of all parties, charities and the churches would back this idea. Unfortunately, I suspect it would be easier for them to shout about “racism” and in doing so condemn yet more people to risk their lives on rickety boats and in squalid refugee camps.
*Published in the South Wales Argus on 20 July 2015*