Thursday, July 30, 2015

How to resolve the Calais problem?

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.

Option 1
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.

Option 2
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.

Option 3
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.

Option 4
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.

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:

  1. Dictators, through the Global Human Rights Index
  2. Wars over separatism
  3. Islamic extremism
  4. Climate change (since it will cause wars and ecological collapse)
  5. Sustainable economic development (to reduce the gap between rich and poor in countries and between countries)
  6. 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.


Anonymous said...

Problem is, whilst the majority are likely to be genuinely seeking asylum from persecution when they left their homeland, France for all its faults is a safe and free nation. I don't like Population Matters (OPT) or many of their ideas, but they are right a about the need to reduce the populkations of high consumption countries if we stand any chance of dealing with climate change.

DocRichard said...

France receives about 10x more immigrants than we do:

However, we do live in a very densely populated area.

Alex Lodge said...

Your account is far more eloquent than mine! Very well considered and interesting.

David Flint said...

There are other issues around option 2 (a better camp). One is that it would attract extra migrants, requiring more facilities, bringing more migrants, etc. The people of Calais would probably be pretty uncomfortable with this as would many Brits who would see it as a sign that we intended to admit more migrants. I think the popular charge would be feather-bedding not 'concentration camp'.

It's worth remembering that the Calais migrants don't particularly want a just determination of their cases - they want entry and they will break our laws to get in if that's the only way. (In other circumstances we'd see their courage and persistence as admirable. Many are also educated and would become good citizens and productive workers.)

But Richard I think you are too quick to dismiss options on the basis that they are currently unpopular. Many Green policies are currently unpopular yet we persist! So let's ask what we SHOULD do.

First, we have obligations to offer asylum and should be more generous in meeting them on humanitarian grounds. I offer no specifics but I see this as option 4 with generous criteria.

Second, let's look at causes. Many migrants are fleeing from problems to which UK action has contributed directly (eg in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan) or indirectly through climate change and complicity in dictatorship and corruption. Applying the "you break it - you own it" rule we need to do MUCH more to address these problems. In general the best places to take these actions, whether humanitarian, capacity building or military interventions, are in the regions concerned. However, the actions needed are not always clear or, if clear, may not be practical.

So we are left with a moral obligation that cannot be met by actions in the regions from which migrants are coming. It can be met, in part, by letting more migrants into the UK. And I think it should be.

Now I am not advocating open doors or even unilateral action. We should be acting with other nations, and especially with the US and the EU. But I think we should commit to meeting our obligations on this even though it has consequences for both costs and environmental impacts that we don't like. As someone once said "In any morally difficult situation the least welcome option is usually the morally correct one."

DocRichard said...

Hello David

Would better facilities really attract more migrants? Do we know for certain that someone in Syria, having survived one of Assad's barrel bombs, says to himself (or herself) "well, I hear that they have shower and washing up facilities now in Calais, I think I'll go and try them"?

I really am not sure, but my feeling is that they respond, "That's it. I'm not staying here waiting for this war to stop of its own accord. I'm off"

I learn that there were better facilities and a processing office, but the Tories closed them down on the above grounds.

Happily we seem to be agreed on the rest.



Anonymous said...

Good analysis. There is much to do to even start a decent, non-violent approach to such international problems - the Green way is good but I fear is not being heard over the neoliberal orthodoxy. Climate change is currently not associated with "war" or "violence" - you've highlighted this. You may have noticed the recent paper on accelerated sea level change, whilst still in discussion, might be a higher order model of likely future problems with major cities no longer being viable, possibly within 50 to 200 years.

DocRichard said...

Hi Anon.

There is a connection between climate and the war in Syria. Climate > drought > migration to cities > exacerbation of tensions

Sea level rise is major. 3% of land is at risk, but 30% of our food comes from that land.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a significant number of Greens advocating zero net immigration (Rupert Read for example), one suspects their voices will grow louder as socialists de-camp back to Labour following a Corbyn victory.