Monday, October 24, 2016

Goodbye to the Jungle?

The existence of the "Jungle" migrant camp outside Calais is not in anyone's interests.

It is not in the interests of the refugees who are there because conditions are terrible.

It is not in the interests of the people of France because the camp has created a serious public order problem.

It is not in the interests of the people of Britain because some - not necessarily all - of the residents of the camp and the "people-smuggler" gangsters who are exploiting them have been using violence and intimidation to try to blackmail tourists and truckers to get them into Britain.

It is not in the interests of refugees still in the middle east because the existence of the camp may tempt them to attempt dangerous and illegal routes to try to gain entry to Britain - which are probably not those most likely to be successful.

So I hope the attempt to disperse the camp this week is successful. But I am not holding my breath.

Britain, while spending more on providing food, shelter and medical care in the Middle East than the rest of the EU put together, had made clear that where we took our share of refugees from the area we would do so directly from the refugee camps in the middle east and on the basis of need. I am convinced that this was the right policy to make sure that we discouraged people from giving their life savings to "people smuggler" gangsters and risking their lives.

It was entirely predictable that after Britain was persuaded to take some child refugees from the "Jungle" camp by comparisons to the Kindertransport which rescued children from the Holocaust, there would be  outrage when photographs of adult males appeared in newspapers with the suggestion that they had managed to get into Britain by abusing this act of charity.

It would probably be sensible to refrain from jumping to the conclusion that everything we read in the papers about this is true.

There are no easy answers. Let's not demonise people who have different views about how to find a compassionate and practical way to resolve this which our country can accept.

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