Charlie Elphicke is MP for Dover and Deal.
At long last, it appears that the Calais Jungle’s days may be numbered. When I visited the camp last month, I was shocked. It was worse than I had ever seen it. This camp should have been dismantled years ago. Instead. the numbers there have swollen to 10,000 people. Traffickers roam free, feasting on people’s hopes of a better life, yet all they sell are broken dreams and a life of modern slavery should the migrants make it to Britain. This situation puts real pressure on our border at the Dover frontline – and underlines why Britain and France need a clear plan to end this exploitation of humanity and restore order at the border.
So it is welcome that Francois Hollande has finally set out to dismantle the Jungle. Yet we’ve heard it all before: last time the French Government made a half-hearted attempt, and dismantled a small section. The numbers simply grew ever more quickly to the current 10,000. It is vital to the future of Dover and Calais that the Jungle is dismantled – never to return.
Britain is doing its bit
It is no good French politicians seeking to play the blame game on this dreadful situation. They talk of Britain’s moral duty ,and how we must play our part in managing the migrant crisis. They appear to demand we pay up or take more migrants from Calais. Yet the truth is we are doing our bit.
We have already made a strong financial contribution. British taxpayers have paid tens of millions of pounds for walls and fences in Calais. What’s more, we are working to reunite children in the Jungle where their families are in the UK.
Now we must invest in stronger border security at Dover- to find bootleg goods and people who are being trafficked at Dover docks. The recent arrival on a Kent beach of yet another dinghy full of migrants from Calais highlights the need to invest in security on our English Channel too. Migrants are found being trafficked to our beaches in small craft on a monthly, if not weekly basis – and who knows how many more arrive undetected? We need a bigger fleet of border boats patrolling the Channel and a squadron of Dover drones to take to the skies and track the traffickers.
Britain is not responsible for the migrant crisis. The reason the Jungle is at Calais is because Calais is the first real border migrants come to. From Greece or Italy, migrants can travel anywhere they like in Europe due to the EU’s system of open borders. Indeed, many migrants I spoke to in the Jungle felt they were invited to come by the EU – especially by Angela Merkel. So rather than us being blamed for having border controls, France should instead think about taking back control of their own borders and leaving the Schengen open borders regime.
We would never have allowed the Jungle to form in the first place. We would never leave people to live outside in shacks. We would have taken the 800 children there into care long ago. We would have arrested the traffickers and put them away for a long stretch. Such swift, firm actions would have stopped the migrant magnet before it started to attract anyone. No-one can fathom why France allowed things to get to such a stage.
Britain and France need a clear plan
Everyone understands that there is an election on in France. That this is why the dreadful situation at Calais is suddenly an issue. Yet what is needed is a clear plan on which both the British and French Governments work together to put an end to this shameful situation for once and for all:
- The people traffickers must be caught and jailed. Make no mistake: evil slave-masters are at the heart of this crisis. Britain and France must work together to target trafficking gangs and disrupt their networks.
- Protect tourists, truckers and trade at Calais. The attacks we have seen with chainsaw-wielding, tree-throwing, petrol-bombing criminals on the road to Calais are totally unacceptable. The tragic case of an Eritrean migrant killed recently by a British driver, who was swerving to avoid an attack by traffickers, shows how dangerous the situation has become. Urgent action is needed to catch these gangs and end their evil trade of modern slavery.
- Patrol our English Channel. We should increase the Border Force budget and ensure we have more than three vessels to patrol 7,000 miles of coastline. It’s welcome more coastal patrol boats are being introduced on the Channel. Yet we must now get the Border Force, Coastguard, the Navy and Royal Marines to work together more effectively. With the proper use of drones at the Dover frontline and intelligence assets, we can stamp out the rising trend of people trafficking by small craft.
- The Jungle should be fully dismantled – now. The people there should be moved to places of safety far from Calais. President Hollande says this will happen and it is welcome. They could start as soon as Monday. Yet the French need to be sure people won’t simply sneak back to Calais.
- The migrants should be helped back to their home nations. Any asylum claims should be processed and failed asylum seekers should be repatriated. It’s important to put an end to the Calais magnet.
The situation at Calais is appalling. It has gone on for far too long. The conditions there are an affront to humanity. This is why the Jungle must be dismantled, and the people there returned to their home nations. Britain and France should work together to protect the vulnerable and promote border security. With strong cooperation and a clear plan Britain and France together can restore order at the border for good and beat the people traffickers. Ending the evil trade of modern slavery is the most important battle of our times.