Calais: Let Them In





31 July London. The Prime Minister David Cameron chairs a meeting today on what to do about Calais. The dilemma is self made.

For years the French unions have struck knowing that tactical advantage in such a sensitive area will always secure a result and it always has.

For years refugees have gathered in Calais knowing it is the final albeit cosliest push to get into England.  Some have been successful.

For years nothing has been done in France to sort the unions – because they cannot be sorted – and nothing has been done to clear refugees from the  jumping-off point from continental Europe – because there is no way to do it.

So there is the practical agenda for Cameron & Co: can the British (and mayber the French) sort the real problem?

The problem being of course two major wars zones, three minor asymmetric war zones, collapsed economies, Libya and a determination to reach the UK that by reputation is a safe and lucrative haven for those who have nothing, including hope.

Historically the British are part of the problem. In distant past colonial rule was rarely so bad as sometimes suggested today. During the two post WWII decades the British divested themselves of the right to govern 25% of the world.  In many cases the Empire had not done so badly by British rule. A few African states even to this day would like to see someting similar in place.

But the harsher truth is that without colonial masters despots rose and ruined their countries and fought other states. That is not a case for colonialism.  It is a fact.

More importantly, as the post WWII world prospered currupt leaders of former colonies (not just British) pocketed the proceeds of natural resources including oil in Africa and diverted  £multi million aid funds into their petty cash accounts.  With honourable exceptions (Botswana is one) countries and people suffered.

For the past decade we have added wars in which we have destroyed leaderships and landscapes to the misery of much that we have visited, intervened and then left without any pretence of putting the best of that which is our best in place of the bad that we claimed to have found.

And so the people have moved.  Today there are some 60 million displaced people in the world.  The population of Britain is 60 million.  Image that number with no home, no chance and a younger more savvy youth asking why this misery should be their lot?

That a relative few, if we can call tens of thousands that, have found their different ways to Calais is in these times of the spread of information, hardly a surprise – or should not be.

Given our history in the cause of this misery and given the impossibility of sending everyone home (and to what?) we have the obligation of only one answer at today’s downing Street Cabinet Office meeting: we should open the gate.

These people have come far. They have shown a resourcefulness inspired by possibility, the hope of work in what Governmenent press releases every day herald the best growing economy in the world. They have also left behind others, even the dearest, in wretched poverty and fear of air launched bombings often supported and even executed by our own government.

We have failed these people and their forefathers and now their children.

But would any British politician, community leader or churchman or woman even have the sense of dignity, imagination and courage to explain to the British poeple why we should open the Calais-Dover gate?

We should let them in and those who follow and do so not reluctantly but with open arms.

Of course no government will do that. No leader would do. No individual who arrived from other parts and now clutches a British passport would say so. But that is exactly what we should be doing. Open the gate and ask no thanks for so doing.



2 Responses to “Calais: Let Them In”

  1. grannybuttons Says:

    Good point. But there’s a corollary, an unsayable one in the present environment. And it’s a serious one – I’m not joking:

    Let them in. But give them fewer civil rights. No right to the welfare state. No right to minimum wages. No path to citizenship – not even for their children or their descendants.

    Just let them in, and allow them to make their own way in life, in a liberal, libertarian environment. It would be a darn sight more humane than what they are undergoing now.

  2. Sheila de Vries Says:

    I enjoyed reading your view on the dilemma of the refugees waiting to cross to England. I agree that the gates should be opened – after all England already has a multi-cultural society. Perhaps these immigrants could teach something to certain parts of our society which are lacking in anything good. However, I also agree that of course the Government won’t make that decision because of their desire to stay in power. Whenever we exit the supermarket here in Italy we have to hand over a euro from the trolley to the refugee standing with his palm up. Mixed emotions – annoyed by being emotionally blackmailed and awe for the journey they had to make to get to the supermarket in Citta di Castello. It’s a really difficult one.

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