IIt’s a sad law of politics that just because a problem exists doesn’t mean a solution exists. In the Ministry of the Interior, this law is more widespread than anywhere else. The tragedy of 27 deaths in the English Channel last week is a horrifying illustration of just how true this is.
Some of my backbench Conservative colleagues agree with the part of the population who believe that the government is not, indefinitely, “hard enough” on the issue. This is patently unfair to the Home Secretary in particular and to the government as a whole. They want a solution as much as anyone for political reasons as well as for normal decent humanitarian reasons.
There is no single law that works in this case, but there is a range of options. These break down into short-term measures which should be implemented immediately and longer-term plans which will take months and in some cases years to materialize, but will be necessary to give lasting hope that this crisis will not come to fruition. will not be permanent.
In the immediate future, the only remedy can be found on the beaches of northern France. The police effort to stop this activity, which is of course organized by some of the world’s nastiest criminal gangs preying on the most vulnerable people, may have been considerable, but it is not enough.
For starters, the use of drones and other aerial surveillance would give authorities a chance to immediately know where a particular operation is taking place, and therefore the ability to deploy police there in time. Whether this is done by French or British officers is a second-rate question. If the French police don’t have the resources, the UK can and will help. Both countries already allow each other’s immigration officials to check passports across the Channel, so it’s legally possible. Sovereignty shouldn’t be a problem here.
What this would require is a greater willingness to act together than is currently available. The broader context of Anglo-French coldness, which is currently severe and worsening, must be reversed, in the interest of both countries. The past few days have been a diplomatic disaster. Now is not the time to show the injured self-esteem, in either language. Reckless speech costs lives.
In the longer term, the idea of adapting the Syrian regime, where refugees came to Britain legally from the region to which they had originally fled, is a good idea. There is no reason why this could not be applied to other countries in turmoil and would provide the flip side of new restrictions on illegal entry in the border bill currently before the parliament. This would demonstrate that the UK is not shirking its responsibilities as a global player and therefore justifies stricter rules in terms of denying entry to those who attempt to break or ignore the country’s existing laws. .
This kind of strategy, which combines a realistic and compassionate approach across the world with greater protection of our own borders, will be necessary. More importantly, it will save lives, but it will also lower the political temperature around immigration more generally.
It will also be necessary because of a fact that I almost hesitate to point out to more delicate minds. Observer readers. It is because Britain – post-Brexit Britain, Conservative Britain, Boris’ Britain – is a very attractive place to live. People who have reached France or other successful Western democracies are still desperate to come to the UK. Because we live here too, we don’t want that desirability to change. So let’s have an asylum system that can cope.
Damian Green is a former Minister of Immigration and Chair of the One Nation Conservative Caucus and Member of Parliament for Ashford, Kent