23 APR 2016

Why our asylum policy must be driven by compassion

Recent attempts by migrants to break into Britain by lorry and dinghy have caused renewed concern. Thousands of attempts are made every year. Thanks to our border controls being in Calais, the overwhelming majority do not succeed. They are caught by vigilant ships that patrol the English Channel. By eagle eyed border officers. And by highly trained dogs who sniff out people hiding in the fruit and veg.

Yet the problem of the Calais Jungle remains. There are some who say that we should simply take everyone from the Jungle into Britain. This is the view of Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Labour Party. Others say we should take in unaccompanied children who are in Europe. This is the argument made by Save the Children.

This would not be the right approach. First because it would let European countries off the hook for their responsibilities. Especially France. If you are in Europe, you should surely be seen as being safe. Yet mainly because if we take in more people from Europe we will encourage more to come. That's more people who will make dangerous journeys that too often end in disaster. We all remember little Aylan Kurdi, whose lifeless body lay limp, face down on the beach. Yet loss of life like this is frequent. Too frequent. Just the other day another overloaded boat sank with more lives lost. It's heartrending. We have to do all we can to stop people making these dangerous journeys. Especially vulnerable children who are at risk.

This is why I am pressing Ministers to focus on helping children at risk who are in North Africa and the Middle East. Not in Europe. That would mean we can care for vulnerable children who are at risk and in need while discouraging the making of these dangerous journeys. We should press European nations to adopt a similar approach. So we collectively seek to put an end to these treacherous journeys and defeat the people traffickers, while focussing our care on those most in need.

It's important we do all we can to keep our border in Calais. Yet it is also vital to make sure we co-operate with our European partners to catch people traffickers, stamp out cross border crime and protect the vulnerable - especially women and children - from being exploited. This is why the close co-operation by the UK and French Governments matters so much. Moreover this is why I am so passionate that it must continue.

The migration crisis is not something that will just sort itself out. We know deep down that we cannot sort it out alone. We need to take action in co-operation with our fellow European nations. To help the people who are most in need in conflict zones while ensuring our border is maintained in Calais and is as safe and secure as it can be.


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Charlie Elphicke

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