The shambles in Calais cannot continue.
First, we need to orient ourselves. There is a useful picture presented on the HuffPost here. And in the Mirror here.
Briefly, there are some 60 million displaced people in the world. That's 1% of us. The main causes are war, conflict, oppression, and (increasingly) the inability of the environment to support them. -
In Greece, (which is overwhelmed, given its proximity to a war zone, and its dire financial state) 61% come from Syria and 21% are Afghan.
212,000 refugees entered Europe in 2014.
Of these, Germany took 100,000 and the UK took 20,000 - so the paranoid fantasies of Daily Mail style journalism, ("they're coming here to take advantage of our benefits"), is untrue.
Why the problem in Calais? Because we are not part of the Schengen agreement, so we still have border controls. People wanting to come to the UK - because they have a connection with Britain, or relatives in Britain, or speak English - are held up at the border.
This is a complex situation. The best way to deal with complexity is to look at all the options, then reject the impossible ones, so that we are left with the possibilities.
Capture them all and send them back to where they came from.
This is the right wing option. It leaves humanity out of the picture altogether, and will cause suicide, and violent protests from the refugees and also at home.
Not an option.
Regularise the situation by creating a formal camp with billets and facilities, where people's applications are processed.
This is possible, but will immediately be dubbed a "Concentration Camp" by critics and journalists.
This name itself is enough to make sure that it is not an option.
Just let them all in.
This is the open border option favoured by many Green Party members. "We are all humans, nations are just social constructs, let them in unconditionally, in the name of humanity".
The problem lies in the term "social construct". There is a firm majority of people in Britain who are dead set against open borders, against immigration per se. Yes, this sentiment is media-generated and unrealistic, but it it nevertheless also real, and given that the vast majority of the media and politicians are against it, it simply ain't going to happen.
Not an option.
Process applications to identify those who have a Right of Asylum in accordance with Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. "Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution".
The UK can use its office already on French soil to collect data on those who are running from persecution. At the same time, we can obtain the histories of those who may not necessarily be persecuted, but who would face persecution and or death if they were returned.
This is an option, especially if combined with Option 5.
Address the causes of migration.
The Government is talking about a clampdown on the gangsters who profit from the trafficking of immigrants. This is difficult but not impossible.
Addressing the root causes of migration means long term action in the UN, addressing these factors:
- Dictators, through the Global Human Rights Index
- Wars over separatism
- Islamic extremism
- Climate change (since it will cause wars and ecological collapse)
- Sustainable economic development (to reduce the gap between rich and poor in countries and between countries)
- Population growth (since it is impossible to expand forever into a finite space)
The solutions in the links above are not the end of the debate, but they are the beginning.
So there are sensible, practical humane things we can do to address the situation in Calais, and in solving the Calais problem we will be making the world a much better place.