Leading article: Europe needs to face up to the migration challenge

Governments cannot go on washing their hands of the problem

Share
Related Topics

First the riot police went in, then the bulldozers. By the time their work was done, the makeshift migrant camp on the outskirts of Calais had been wiped away. Politicians on both sides of the Channel expressed their conviction yesterday that this will help solve the migrant problem that has plagued the French port for almost a decade. If only it were that simple.

The reality is that we have been here before. In 2002, the French government ordered the closure of the Red Cross refugee centre in nearby Sangatte. The authorities argued that this would deter migrants from travelling to the area. It did not. The migrants still came. And in the absence of the accommodation centre, they simply built shanty homes in the countryside. There is every reason to believe the same will happen again. Yesterday's raid was broadcast in advance. Many migrants fled before the police moved in. Most expect those who escaped the net will simply establish a new squatter camp in another location.

The "jungle" in Calais, as it became known, was certainly a disgrace. An unsanitary eyesore, its existence was unfair to both its inhabitants and the local community. But simply tearing it down does not represent a credible way forward. A more thoughtful strategic approach is required.

First, politicians should look to where the migrants in this area originate. Most are from troubled states such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan. If governments want to get to the root causes of the migration problem, rather than simply treating the symptoms, they should be making greater efforts to stabilise those nations and reduce the incentives for their populations to seek a better life elsewhere. Second, our leaders need to dispense with the fantasy that it is within their power to control migration flows. Some people from poor countries will always want to escape poverty or persecution, and they will endure extraordinary risks and hardship to do so. Furthermore, modern transportation and the open borders of Europe make it impossible to shut them out entirely. The objective should be to deal with the implications of the inevitable flow of people in the fairest and most humane way possible.

And migration does create problems, as the bottleneck of human misery and desperation in Calais demonstrates. Such problems can only be dealt with effectively at a European level. The migrants of Calais are but one manifestation of a continent-wide challenge. A human tragedy takes place each year in the Mediterranean as hundreds of Africans die attempting to cross the ocean in flimsy boats bound for Europe.

Sweden, the present holder of the European Union presidency, intends to put the issue of managing migration flows on to the agenda for a summit next month. One proposal is for co-ordinated processing and distribution centres to take the pressure off frontier countries in the Mediterranean. This would be a sensible way forward.

At present many governments are washing their hands of the problem, discouraging asylum seekers from making claims in their own nations and waving economic refugees on their way to Britain, which, traditionally, has been somewhere they can easily find work. Worse, Italy has adopted an ugly policy of turning back boats of migrants without checking if there are asylum seekers aboard. There have also been appalling cases of Africans being left to drown. Europe urgently needs to face up to the challenge of migration and work together to manage its consequences. Demolishing squatter camps and turning back boats of desperate people are not policies, but displacement activities – and morally bankrupt at that.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping the child abuse taking place now

Mary Dejevsky
A ‘hugely irritated’ Sir Malcolm Rifkind on his way home from Parliament on Monday  

Before rushing to criticise Malcolm Rifkind, do you know how much being an MP can cost?

Isabel Hardman
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower