Calais: Humanity Crisis or Mild Annoyance?

What if I told you someone had died? Not by natural causes but through an accident. Some might say that is awful. Wait, let me finish, nine people have died in the last two months! Some might say that is a tragedy. Where did this happen? The Calais crossing. Oh, that’s not news.

The migrants setting up base camp at Calais is not an overnight ordeal, the build-up of camps has been there for many years but has only gained national coverage due to the delays the lorry drivers and holidaymakers were experiencing trying to cross the channel. All these migrants creating an inconvenience on our border. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, was asked what is to be done to solve this problem. His response? The “swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean” would be dealt with. That is when things blew up.

Refugee

Photograph: Philippe Huguen

The Government decided the best way was to tackle the problem was with an iron fist. The borders would be protected by any means necessary. Cameron has an infinite amount of sympathy for the holidaymakers as he said “people really look forward to their annual holidays and I have friends and family that are using this route, I know how important it is and we will do everything we can to help.” Despite there being alternative routes to cross the channel, such as ferries and flights, Cameron has decided that this situation should take precedent in priorities. Making this route stress free for our travelling citizens who are unable to change their planned routes. This is to make Britain look strong in case any opportunist foreigners were thinking of coming here for a free ride. He added “we need to protect our borders by working hand in glove with our neighbours, the French, and that is exactly what we are doing.”

delay

There has been some shrugging from both sides of the English Channel of whose responsibility it is to manage these misplaced persons. Britain got angry because France were not controlling their land borders making it easy for migrants to reach Calais. France got angry because Britain was not doing their share to control the situation. Speaking to a couple of my friends who live in France, I asked them what they thought of the pressing situation. One said the coverage was balanced but highlighted the economic strain it has on the city. The other said there had been “rising racial tensions building between the locals and the African communities”.

Has this become the media’s new threat to national security? Forget ISIS, Ebola and cyber terrorism, Calais is the new plague that threatens our divine way of life. In our everyday lives we create an inner barrier. One that shields us from the bombardment of conflict in the world, which is delivered to us constantly through the news and social media. From our comfortable living rooms we have developed a numbness to anything that does not directly affect our own happiness. However, to create fear and a sense of insecurity the news will stir emotions with one-sided perspectives.

DailyMail

Distasteful and racist comic from the Daily Mail commenting on the Calais situation.

Immigration has been a hot topic in past general elections and is the subject of many political debates on how we will control our borders. There are too many living here already on this small island. It is a strain on the NHS, a strain on social housing and a strain on the welfare state. These excuses repeatedly come up but no one wants to address what is the root of these problems or how we can improve these branches of society but it is easier to blame it on the immigrants.

There was an interesting study showing how many asylum applications the United Kingdom actually receives. Per 1 million nationals, the UK received a mere 494 applications in 2014. That is 19th of all European countries and the majority of these applicants are not even accepted. That is quite shocking when you also compare how many asylum seekers countries outside of Europe take. Lebanon has taken over a million Syrian refugees to date and Jordan has over half a million. These are countries with less resources and without our infrastructure. What is David Cameron’s solution to these problems? More fences. More sniffer dogs. An effort to show the world that the United Kingdom is not a “safe haven” for migrants. The Government is pledging an extra £7 million to tighten up security and make sure these illegals do not make it to our shores.

These are not illegal immigrants, these are vulnerable REFUGEES. As one poster in the camps claimed: We are not dangerous. We are in danger.

Jungle

Photograph: Francois Lo Presti

What about the people who actually live in these circumstances and Calais’ largest settlement, ‘The Jungle’? They come from unimaginable circumstances, from war stricken countries and from hopeless despair. With no opportunities they come to Britain for a better life. Some have crossed the unforgiving desert, the perils of the Mediterranean Sea and through the forests of Eastern Europe.

When you hear the stories it breaks your heart. One from the Guardian is about a young boy from Syria who was kidnapped by the army. He tells his story while showing the camera man his grotesquely swollen leg when he was run over by the army’s car. With a damaged leg, he walks two miles every night for a chance to jump on to a lorry or train heading to the UK. He risks his life every day.

Lorry

Man jumps on the back of a lorry. Photograph: The Telegraph

Or the Channel 4 story who spoke to an Eritrean woman who made it into Britain. After a six year journey and a stint in the jungle she finally made it to Birmingham. She is given £5 a day to live off while her application is going through and has been restricted from working. She is in a helpless position. If her appeal is not successful, she will be sent back to her home country. “I can’t go back to my country. It would be better to die here,” she says with a sincere sadness.

Jaz O’Hara, who works for the Worldwide Tribe in Calais captured this incredibly sad story from a 23-year-old man from Darfur, Sudan. “He told me that the Janjaweed (militia) had come to his village on horseback when he was 18, burnt it to the ground and brutally shot many people, including his dad, just for being black. He was arrested, accused of opposing the government, and put in prison for two years. As soon as he got out, he went back to where the village once was, desperate to find his two little brothers, little sister and mother. He was told his sister was alive and in a nearby town so he went looking for her. She wasn’t there. He searched towns and cities until he was again arrested, as travelling through the country is not permitted. Unable to face any more time in prison, he spent all the money he had to be smuggled to Libya. Here he started his journey, on foot and alone to England.”

How many more unspoken stories are there? The countless who have died to attempt the journey. These are real people. Not an annoyance, not benefit scroungers and definitely not a swarm that will lead to a mass invasion. It is easy to turn a blind eye to the crisis on our doorstep and pretend it is not happening. Instead of spending £7 million on fences we need to invest in more efficient processing facilities and a safe shelter for genuine asylum applicants. There is a clear distinction between economic immigrants and refugees.

WWT

Do we lack that much compassion that we do not want to help our fellow man? Instead of branding them insects, why do we not try to empathise with their situation and realise they are just like you and I. People looking for a better life.

The Worldwide Tribe

5 thoughts on “Calais: Humanity Crisis or Mild Annoyance?

  1. Very well written, researched, argued and enlightening viewpoint on the terms that we are hearing these days “immigration”, “asylum seekers”, “benefit scroungers”, “Calais” and “Swarm”. Since conservatives came into UK Government they have insisted on using a sledge hammer approach to counter immigration. They fail to recognize empathy, humanness and assisting people in desperate situations; instead assert on deploying media to use “immigration” “deficit” and “benefits” to ill-educate people that the sole intention of people is to come to UK for this only.

    You have underlined with profound sincerity the heart-breaking stories behind these real people. We are humans, we need to help one another, we need to bridge gaps, we need to lend a hand when needed, we should endeavour to reach out; after all, it is one little planet we all share and we are all made up of same vulnerabilities, aspirations and dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been horribly ashamed of our governments ludicrous response to the migrant crisis.( I did not vote for them!) Spending taxpayers money on building fences is sickening. I have supported the Worldwide Tribes appeal

    Liked by 1 person

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