The Calais crisis can't be solved - by John Lichfield for Unherd

Following the tragic deaths of 27 migrants who drowned in the channel when their flimsy boat capsized and sank six miles off the coast of Calais on Wednesday, we provide a three-sided analysis on the current crisis which threatens to sour Anglo-French relations still further and presents the British government with an existential problem regarding the defence of its own coastline.


The first, an essay by John Lichfield from his home in Normandy, provides a perspective from the other side of the channel and argues that the issue is far less straightforward than public opinion over here has been led to believe:


"It is a complex story which is habitually simplified by British politicians and some in the British media. France’s record is not unblemished, but that has nothing to do with the cunning Gallic cynicism of British media myth. I made up my mind years ago about who was responsible for the never-ending Calais crisis. We all are. No one is. Everyone is partly right; everyone is partly wrong.


The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, presents the events in a simpler way. The fact that 27 people drowned is a tragedy but it is mostly the fault of the French, he said. The British popular media is even more convinced where the guilt lies. “This is on you, Macron,” was the splash headline on MailOnline yesterday. If the website wants to increase, rather than reduce, the trickle of migrants now reaching Britain from France (and it is a trickle not a flood), the best way of doing so would be to carry on insulting and angering the French."


According to Lichfield, the principal 'pull' for migrants crossing the channel is the English language and the opportunity to work:


"Why are they so determined to go to Britain? Because they speak a little English; or they have connections in the UK; or they have been persuaded that the UK, without ID cards, is an El Dorado for migrants.


I have spoken to many migrants over the years. One sticks in my mind. Adamkhan was 34. He had been a maths teacher in a primary school in Peshwar in Pakistan. He fled after he was threatened by the Taliban for promoting “western education”.


When I spoke to him at a squalid camp near Calais port in 2014, he was walking with a crutch after injuring his leg fleeing from police while trying to board a lorry. He said: “Most of the immigrants here… want to go to England because they speak a little English and because they think they can work there.”


“I know the UK is a crowded island and no one wants us. I know the French authorities have a very difficult job. Conditions in these camps are inhuman. But what is the solution?”


According to Lichfield:


"There is none. European countries can improve their external border protection, but many migrants will still get through. A small percentage of them will always try to go to Britain.


But there can be better management of the crisis. The French can, perhaps, try harder to block the beaches. Britain could agree to process some asylum requests on the French side of the Channel. But Boris Johnson’s suggested solution — British police on the French beaches — could never be accepted and would not work.


The Calais crisis cannot be solved in Calais because it is not a Calais problem. It is a small part of a European, or global, problem of displacement of peoples by war or famine or misery."


The full article can be read here with a link to the original beneath it:


Article for Unherd by John Lichfield - The Calais crisis can't be solved - 26.11.21
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The second piece, by David Barrett for the Daily Mail, provides a step-by-step account of the process asylum seekers go through once they land ashore here in the UK, including the multiple hurdles now facing the British government in its attempts to extricate illegal applicants.


Article by David Barrett for the Mail - Is it any wonder they risk their lives to get here
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Finally Nick Timothy for the Telegraph provides a list of policy suggestions for the British government to consider as it attempts to stem the flow and get on top of the situation:


"The best quick fix is an agreement with France. Ministers there are frustrated with Britain: they believe our soft immigration system and open labour market draw migrants to their northern coast to make the journey here. And they are right. But they have also knowingly fuelled the crisis. The French authorities have stood and watched as migrants have climbed aboard flimsy boats, and their navy has escorted dinghies away from French waters, leaving them for the British authorities to come to the rescue.


Yet Macron faces problems too. He has called for an emergency meeting of EU ministers to discuss the crisis. But as a member of the Schengen area, France can do nothing in normal circumstances to stop migrants who have made it into Europe crossing its own borders. And the EU’s Dublin Regulation, which stipulates that asylum must be sought in the first safe country a migrant enters, is not working. Unless Macron stops the boats leaving the French coastline, more migrants will keep coming to France.


So a deal with France is feasible. If it cannot be agreed, Britain should challenge France for failing to meet its obligations under the United Nations Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants. But that will take time, the consequences will anyway be limited, and the crisis will continue.


With no deal, the other quick course of action is to pass emergency legislation, overriding human rights laws and mandating long sentences in new detention facilities for those who enter the country illegally, come from a safe country and refuse to leave Britain."


The full article can be read here with a link to the original beneath it:



Article by Nick Timothy for the Telegraph - Macron could solve the migrant crisis if he wa
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