Who cares about the Channel crisis?
For the media and the Government, only one crisis is worth bothering with
Isn’t the refugee crisis awful? Aren’t the pictures of all those desperate people seeking a new life in Britain terrible to behold? Why isn’t the Government doing more to alleviate the dreadful scenes?
In fact there are two crises that fit the above description when it comes to people seeking asylum in the UK and in combination they pretty much conform to Newton’s third law of motion by representing “equal and opposite forces”.
First there is the migration crisis that you see on your TV screens every evening: wall to wall coverage of the plight of thousands of Afghan nationals crushing around the perimeter fencing at Kabul Airport, utterly desperate to escape their own country as the Taliban take it over again.
For our broadcast media, left-wing political parties and increasingly the Tory government too this is the crisis that counts and the solution to it is simply for us to offer a new life in the UK to more and more Afghans. The Home Office’s social media output is quite something to behold — dominated by this story to the exclusion of all its other responsibilities.
One of its most senior civil servants overseeing the asylum system, Director General of Asylum and Protection Dr Emma Haddad, has even been permitted to publish an article under her own name in the Telegraph hyping up the British rescue effort. “My team has been working round the clock to provide a safe refuge for those fleeing Afghanistan,” she wrote.
The UK Government this week indulged in the conceit that extending the evacuation deadline might constitute a remedy for the decision of US President Joe Biden to hand Afghanistan back to the Taliban. The idea seems to have been that a few more days of flights out of Kabul would be sufficient to airlift out those trapped outside the airport gates.
The obvious point that news of extra flights would act as a huge pull factor drawing vastly bigger crowds into a stampede to the airport and raising the likelihood of further deaths was apparently not considered. Neither was the central truth of the situation admitted: that the vast majority of Afghans are simply going to have to get used to living in an Islamic theocracy once more.
Asylum-seeker status facilitates mass flows that destabilise both countries
In fact, Boris Johnson appeared to come close to creating a general “right to migrate” for Afghan nationals in remarks made after Biden sensibly vetoed his highly dangerous evacuation extension idea.
Speaking after the online G7 meeting, the Prime Minister declared: “The number one condition that we are insisting upon is safe passage beyond the 31st, beyond this initial phase, for those who want to leave Afghanistan.”
Perhaps there are qualifications and limits to this idea that he forgot to mention, a case of Sloppy Bo to Biden’s Sleepy Joe. But the notion that western consciences can be salved by giving the average Afghan a choice of whether to live under the Taliban or not is a cruel deceit.
For starters, there are 38 million of them now, compared to 22 million when the western occupation began 20 years ago. And most of them subsist on less than two dollars a day. So, whatever they think of the Taliban’s strict Islamic code, the idea of moving to a prosperous and relatively (for now) peaceful western country with free housing, free healthcare and free spending money is likely to be rather appealing.
Any Afghan citizen could claim to be under threat of persecution by his country’s regime
How strange that it should be representatives of the Taliban and not the West currently making the point that Afghanistan’s skilled elites are an essential ingredient in any mission to rebuild their country.
And how disturbing that a Conservative British premier should be so accepting of the way the international asylum system has morphed over recent decades. Immediately post the Second World War, when most of the relevant international conventions were written, it was used by small numbers of generally distinguished and freedom-loving dissidents who had a very well-founded fear of persecution due to being notable thorns in the sides of oppressive regimes.
We are a long way from that today, with asylum-seeker status now facilitating mass migratory flows that destabilise both countries of origin and countries of destination. Any Afghan citizen could claim to be under threat of persecution by his country’s regime and it would be hard to prove the contrary. The same is true of any Syrian, Libyan, Iraqi or Iranian. They would not need to be leading dissidents and could be primarily motivated by the opportunity to move from a poor country to a rich one. They could even be supporters of oppressive regimes and amenable to promoting similar oppressive practices in the countries they move to.
This brings us to the second asylum crisis. The one that seldom gets written about by the likes of Dr Haddad. The one that instead is talked about by Leave voters and by working-class people on their social media feeds and in pubs in places where the scale of migration has shattered community cohesion.
This crisis is exemplified by the cross-Channel landings. The route that Home Secretary Priti Patel and Immigration minister Chris Philp promised to make “completely non-viable” has in fact gone bananas this summer. New records for irregular arrivals in a single day are being set nearly every week — first 400 breached, then 500 and now more than 800 in a single day on Saturday.
Four-fifths or more of the arrivals are fit young men who have had the financial wherewithal to pay thousands of pounds to people traffickers. Of those that are escorted ashore after being picked up in the Channel or apprehended when walking up beaches some 98 per cent go on to lodge asylum claims. Many of those who evade capture are assumed to meet waiting contacts for onward transit into our big cities and the twilight world of the “unofficial economy”.
The Home Office boast that 20 per cent failed. Pretty good odds
Almost nobody in the broadcast media or the House of Commons wants to talk about it. Nigel Farage on GB News is the foremost voice of dissent. Occasionally BBC News is shamed into running a story from its excellent south east of England correspondent Simon Jones who painstakingly records the numbers arriving. But normally his reports are confined to regional TV news and the Kent news section of the BBC website.
The obvious potential political beneficiary of this phenomenon is Reform UK, the party Farage set up that is now run by Richard Tice. But Tice has taken a baffling strategic decision not to base its appeal on immigration control and rarely comments.
The parliamentary parties to the left of the Tories, such as Labour and the Lib Dems, are never going to kick up a stink. So public resentment builds with no obvious escape valve. Some Tory voters have moved to the “don’t know/won’t vote” column in opinion polls but in the absence of Farage from the party political arena, the potential electoral backlash does not seem big enough to shift Boris Johnson into action mode.
His erstwhile adviser Dominic Cummings is clear that Johnson has been given legal advice that his gimmicks — ongoing talks with France, the tweaks to the system outlined in the Nationality and Borders Bill — will not stop the farce. Changes to the Human Rights Act and to outdated, Solzhenitsyn-era international agreements are required. An offshore processing system under which no irregular arrival gets to set foot on UK soil unless his asylum application is successful is the one thing that would deter the daily armada. But there is no sign of that happening.
Earlier this week, the Home Office revealed that on top of the 828 who did make it to Britain on Saturday, the French authorities had prevented 200 more. Perhaps the civil servants there thought that should earn them a reward cookie? In fact it meant that 80 per cent of those trying their luck succeeded. Pretty good odds.
BBC South East’s Mr Jones reported this week that intelligence has been received from France that the boats will be used to smuggle in guns to Britain. The Sun has reported on escalating efforts by those with Islamist terrorist sympathies to get into the UK in recent weeks.
For anyone who believes in the integrity of nation states and who is not on the soggy, no borders, liberal-Left, this is the migration crisis that should be of greatest concern. But the disconnect between the bien pensants of elite media and politics on the one hand and those whose common sense tells them things are not looking good has never been so vast.
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