The Calais Immigration Crisis and What We Can Learn from It

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Britain. The land of opportunity. The place where safety from terrorism is guaranteed. Like any other country, there are flaws in our system – but we are a democratic nation and we stand as a safe haven for refugees. As we have repeatedly seen in the news, asylum seekers make dangerous journeys every day in the hope to claim residence in the UK and this crisis will continue for as long as civil wars break out in their own countries. Currently, Greece is the biggest host country of Syrians and there are also Eritreans, Somalis and those in the Middle East seeking a better life – one where they can go to school or work, just like everyone else.

The Dubs amendment was successfully passed in the House of Commons by Lord Alfred Dubs. It calls for unaccompanied child refugees to be brought to the UK – those without family links and are at particularly high risk of danger (young girls and those under the age of 13). Lord Dubs campaigned for an amendment to the Immigration Bill earlier in 2016 around spring time. The Labour Party politician, who has led various humanitarian projects during his career, fled to England himself in 1939 when he was six from the Nazi-occupied Czech Republic. However, after the Brexit vote, border and immigration regulations are getting tighter for those wishing to enter the UK.

It is hard to predict the exact number of illegal immigrants living in the UK. In 2009, the London School of Economics estimated the number to be around 670,000 – a figure that has since increased. The UK government in 2016 reassured people that it would take in only 20,000 refugees. In Calais, thousands of refugees last year camped near the highway and some tried to climb over the fence that separates France and British territory. There were also a number of incidents where boys were hit by cars on the motorway leading to the port. French Terre d’Asile is an emergency shelter in Calais, created in 1970, which provides language learning, employment and housing for the refugees. It was awarded with the Human Rights Prize of the French Republic in 1989.

Staff employed by the non-governmental organization (NGO) had to go through psychological pain, turning between 15 and 35 unaccompanied refugee children away every day, potentially even more, simply because there were not enough beds. To make matters worse, the camps were in the process of possibly being demolished. Leaflets had been handed out, informing the refugees that they would be moved to centres throughout France, but it was expected that some would refuse to move as they were still determined to get to Britain. There was also concern by some officials that there would be protests and resistance between migrants and French police, which unfortunately did happen.

So what did we learn from the Calais immigration crisis? It is difficult to control borders; people will persist with trying to cross borders and seas, even if it means risking their life. It is a problem which needs to be resolved by European Governments coming together and finding a more permanent solution, possibly by distributing immigrants evenly throughout all of Europe so that it isn’t just one country feeling the pressure of the influx of immigrants.

Global Seven News

Sophia Andersson-Gylden

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