Friday, 31 July 2015

The lesson we should take from Calais - prohibition doesn't work


We have banned them from entering the country. We have built walls and fences. We have deployed cameras. And armed police abound. Yet still they come:

Around 4,000 people have stormed fences and desperately tried to clamber on trains bound for Kent in the past three days - a deadly gamble that has allowed at least 150 to get to Britain but also claimed the lives of nine people.

Migrants have said that watching their friends die will not stop them trying to get to the UK with one saying: 'It's England or death'.

We can make all sorts of assumptions about the situation, about why these (mostly) men are swarming around the entrance to the Channel Tunnel, clambering onto and into trucks, and taking the most extreme risks to get to England. What is abundantly clear is that building fences, throwing up walls and arming the cops is not enough to keep them out. Let's also get straight that sending in troops won't keep them out either.

It won't win me any friends saying this but so long as our strategy for preventing refugees and migrants from entering the UK is a barrier - our contribution to managing the wider problem of the world's population displacement - we will see repeated examples of what's going on in and around Calais. Just as we know from booze and drugs, prohibition is ineffective and difficult to enforce.

Let's assume for a minute that all the migrants wanting to come to the UK are going to ask for asylum when they arrive. Do we not have a process for determining whether a claim for asylum is genuine? Complete with an appeal system, special courts and hostels? Wouldn't it be better to use that, now pretty well tested, approach to managing the process? After all we know it's working:

The man is the first individual confirmed to have been repatriated through a new removals programme that seeks to take advantage of recent legal judgments and changes to UK immigration policy, which mean that Somalis seeking asylum must successfully prove that they face a specific threat, rather than simply being at risk from indiscriminate violence.

There's a huge international problem that we are choosing to squeeze into one localised symptom of displacement created by a wrong-headed refusal to adopt a sensible approach when faced with ignorant, borderline racist nonsense in the tabloid newspapers. If we were looking to process migrants, establish those with a case and deport the rest - putting resource into a practical response rather than fences or guns - we might have a chance of getting a grip. So long as our response is prohibition the cost of containment will keep rising as migrants seek - and find - new ways round the barrier.

It isn't for reasons of humanitarianism that we need to change our policy around entry, it's for the simple and practical reason that the current approach - de facto prohibition - isn't working. We urgently need a system that allows the existing process dealing with migration and asylum to operate properly rather than spending ever larger sums grandstanding over camps around Calais.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

But the existing process with migration and asylum is quite clear. Migrants are required to make their claim in the first 'safe' country they enter - this is never Britain.
Any local police force detaining an illegal immigrant (be that French or British) should first establish the country of origin, then establish the first 'safe' country he had encountered. The migrant should then be shipped back to that first 'safe' country, at which point his formal application could proceed to be judged. If the migrant is unwilling to identify his first 'safe' country, then he should be shipped straight back to his country of origin.
Without that process, there is no solution to the 'Calais problem' until the widely-held African, Arabic and Asian perception of 'soft life' in Britain is corrected.