Last week the French government announced that it would clear the ‘Calais Jungle’ which is a shanty town encampment created by refugees and asylum seekers trying who are waiting to get a passage across the channel to the UK. Since the closure of the camp at Sangatte a few years ago there has been a growing problem of people with nowhere to go sleeping rough in and around Calais. They have often travelled from across Asia and Africa, and whilst they could try to claim asylum in France or one of the other European countries they have come through, chose to try and do so in the UK. In their journey many will have placed their trust and whatever money they have in the hands of people traffickers. When they arrive in Calais many will live in conditions of squalor controlled my mafia style crime gangs, and be encouraged to do whatever it takes to get to England.
I have previously visited the Mayor of Calais with Richard Ashworth, one of our MEPs for the South East, to see the problem first hand. I was staggered to learn at that time that the Calais authorities had little if no contact from the UK Home Officeom and Immigration service. It would appear that the perception is that Britain’s borders are weak and that once in the UK the chances of deportation are so small that it is worth taking the risk of trying to get in. Earlier this year the Government announced that it would spend £15million on new X-ray equipment for use by the French authorities to detect people trying to smuggle themselves into the UK. This effectively means that we are using our money to try and encourage the French authorities to enforce their own laws.
We obviously live on the front line of this problem, and I would like to see money spent to create a new dedicated Border Police force to protect us and improve the rates of detection of illegal asylum seekers. But I think there is another issue here and one that we see in too many other areas of public life, and that is the culture of managing failure. This develops into a culture where as long as no one feels that a problem is directly their fault, it isn’t their responsibility either. We have been living with this problem on the UK-Calais border for years with no permanent resolution. The clearing of the ‘Calais Jungle’ is merely dispersing the problem. It offers no long term solution and our Government seems to have no real ambition to find one, so you can be sure that the problem will return.