However, speaking as someone whose role of late has been consumed by the migrant crisis in Calais, I have seen first-hand, and been alarmed by, the pervasive ignorance of the situation. The public, it seems, are suffering from something I’ve dubbed ‘Little England Syndrome’.
Don’t get me wrong: until recently I lived in Folkestone, site of the Channel Tunnel entrance, and I’ve been as alarmed as anyone by the ease with which migrants have gained illegal access to the ostensibly secure site. The migrants in Calais have no right to come to the UK; either because they are economic migrants or because, under the Dublin Regulation, those with legitimate asylum claims should have them processed in the first state they reach. For those in Calais this is clearly not the UK (it is less well-known that the majority of refugees entering Britain do so through our airports, often with fake documentation). As such, and in spite of my sympathy for the migrants on a human level, I no more want to see them succeed in their journey than is the prevailing norm.
That said, there seems to be very little appreciation that the bigger picture is one in which the world is struggling with its largest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Never mind the catastrophic scale of the tumult afflicting countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Iraq, some of which we share varying degrees of responsibility for; the discourse in certain parts of Britain, fuelled by Daily Express headlines such as “Send in army to halt migrant invasion” and “Ebola threat reaching UK shores” is one of pure, unabashed British self-interest. This focus on how ‘they’ will all be stealing our jobs, houses and hospital beds, while frolicking with taxpayer-funded handouts, means the wider realities, facts and tragedy are often sadly overlooked.
The Daily Express’ Leo Mckinstry wrote recently that Britain “could become like Africa” and denounced those “who trumpet immigration” as colluders in “the destruction of our great nation”. Clearly this is ridiculous hyperbole, but if every migrant seeking asylum or a better life in Europe was destined for Britain perhaps I might share his fears. The thing is though, they aren’t. Just because migrants interviewed in Calais describe reaching the UK as “their dream” doesn’t mean that’s indicative of the broader pan-European experience. The downtrodden inhabitants of ‘the Jungle’ in Calais make up a tiny fragment (between 1 and 2%) of the more than 200,000 illegal immigrants who have landed on Greek and Italian beaches this year alone. In spite of this influx, numbers in Calais have remained stubborn at around 4,000. It is clear then that not everyone who makes it to Europe heads straight to Calais, motivated by a shared desire to benefit from our “generous welfare system” as Nigel Farage and some…It is a curious thing when someone of a centre-right disposition, with similarly right-of-centre views on immigration, has cause to rail against the right-wing press, writes Drew Smith. However, speaking as someone whose role of late has been consumed by the migrant crisis in Calais, I have seen first-hand, and been alarmed by, the pervasive