We have to tackle the migrant crisis at source – not at Calais

Building higher fences is not the answer to the migrant problem

Building higher fences is not the answer to the migrant problem - Credit: PA

Earlier this year I enjoyed a holiday in France with my family. We caught the ferry from Dover to Dunkirk and drove to our hotel in a village about 50 miles from Paris.

I’m mightily glad we aren’t doing the same trip now. Although the Dover-Dunkirk ferry seems to be continuing unaffected by all the problems at Calais, the prospect of getting to Dover with the M20 being used for Operation Stack must be horrendous.

And I know many people from this part of the world will be planning to make that journey during the school holidays.

I have to say I’m not very impressed by the efforts of the governments across Europe – especially the UK government – to ease the problem.

Until the last few days no one seems to have looked at the cause of the problem.


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Because the issue that is facing the British and French governments (and the Italian, Greek, and Spanish governments for that matter) is not keeping migrants out of the Channel Tunnel.

It is how to deal with the migrants who are arriving in Europe. It is not good enough for the British government to just pretend that a taller fence with more dog handlers will solve the problem.

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If someone has escaped the civil war in Syria, or run away from Eritrea because he could not face the prospect of unlimited army service, and reached Calais he (or she) is unlikely to get to the Channel Tunnel, take one look at the fence and set off home from whence they came.

Now ministers from Britain and France are starting to talk about looking for a European solution – what a pity they hadn’t been prepared to talk about it a few weeks ago when the refugee problem in Italy and Greece was front page news.

Then our government couldn’t have been quicker in looking the other way – one naval ship to pick up refugees and dump them at an Italian port was hardly the answer to the problem.

It is ludicrous for European governments to suggest all Syrian refugees should go to camps in Lebanon or Turkey and hang around there waiting for the civil war to end.

The civil war has already been going on for longer than the First World War, and is so messy that it looks as if it could go on for years more.

Is the best the West can do just to ask the doctors, dentists, and business leaders who have fled their bombed-out cities to live in a tented city outside Beirut or a shack on the edge of Calais?

I know there is no easy answer, but until politicians start asking these difficult questions there will be no long-term solution to the problem of the migrants trying to stow away at Calais.

Cross-Channel links are vital to trade in this country and abroad. Let’s hope politicians can find a meaningful solution to the refugee problem.

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