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The sad ironies of the right-wing attitude to migrants


Every day we hear of the so-called ‘migrant crisis’, with many hundreds of hopeful men, women and children, most of them asylum-seekers, braving the seas to travel here in small boats. In recent days they have benefited from the exceptionally benign November weather, but at other times they have courted death and disaster, and no one knows how many have drowned on the way. The welcome they receive if they make it is shoddy and shameful and entirely down to wilful lack of thought by the Home Office under Suella Braverman. One irony here is that not only Braverman, who is a member of an East African Asian family welcomed by this country in the 1960s, but also other senior ministers such as Pritti Patel and Sunak himself were lucky enough to be born here because their parents came when immigration rules were different. This should, one would think, make them more aware of what attracts people to the UK, even in the face of the overwhelmingly hostile attitude taken up by our government. 

The treatment of migrants in northern France has been appalling too, and many depend on the help given by such organisations as the English charity Care4Calais (who are appealing for winter coats, at the moment – you can look on their website for a local pick-up point, or make a donation). The fact that these would-be citizens have to depend on charitable handouts, unreliable traffickers and dangerous transportation to reach their destination, and are then spoken of by some as though they were criminals amazes me. 

And this is the second irony. It surely cannot have escaped my readers’ notice that we are reportedly short of skilled workers in a number of key services and trades. Even Rishi Sunak has been heard to murmur about relaxing the immigration rules to help fill some of these. Now, some of these vacancies have been caused by the haemorrhaging of skilled workers back to Eastern Europe as a result of Brexit and the demise of free movement of workers from the EU, something which a less hard Brexit could have addressed. Others have been caused by our failure to train sufficient numbers of some skilled workers, such as doctors and nurses, relying instead on poaching already-trained medical staff from elsewhere - often from countries that need them even more than we do. But here at Calais we have a pool of determined, committed, resilient individuals, some of whom have travelled for months or years from Africa or the Middle East, pursuing individual aspirations and undaunted by the difficulties and hardships endured on the way. Many of them were skilled workers in their own countries who could quite easily retrain to use those skills in sectors that need them, and 70 per cent, if they can just get here, will qualify for asylum. They are not coming to be a drain on the system, or take jobs from English workers. They aren’t looking for benefits, or to sponge off our economy. They want to work hard and do well, as such people have always done - the kind of 'invasion' you'd think would be welcome. We need them, just as we have always needed immigrants, on whose sterling qualities this country has built its past prosperity. If we would only welcome these migrants and process their applications quickly and efficiently, who knows how quickly our economic prospects would improve? We are wasting a valuable and available resource, which is nothing short of criminal folly.

In fact, in my view we should be sending passenger ferries for them to Calais and showering them with rewards as well as necessities. This would solve the ‘migrant crisis’ easily and would please our French neighbours no end. But no one in our political establishment is arguing for this logical matching of resource and need. Why not, I wonder?


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