In a world of soundbites and edited comments, it is easy to assume that when someone speaks or is quoted that the full story is more complex and the few words captured may even state the opposite of what the individual really believes. However when one writes a blog or an article that runs into a 1000 or so words, there is not much wiggle room. These are the words and views of the individual, fair and square. It is true of what I write each day, and sadly it is true of the MP for Dover, Charlie Elphicke writing in Wednesdays Guardian newspaper. The regional BBC channel we watch takes in Kent as well as East Sussex and Charlie Elphicke is often on our screens, I rarely hear something I agree with and that extends to what I see he has written on twitter. However this is the first time I have read an article he has written and consistent with form, his words are almost entirely in disagreement with what I believe and frankly deeply lacking in logic. However there is also some common ground between us. We agree on the need to smash up the modern slave trade and capture and jail those involved in people smuggling activity. Its not hard to agree with that, however his other words are completely ridiculous. They focus on the camp in Calais called the Jungle, or rather Jungle 2 because the first camp was destroyed by the French Government. That history alone should temper his words, but it doesn’t.
He argues that this year the people trafficking element of those in the camp has emerged as a ‘dark underbelly’. The truth is that people trafficking is not new and has been involved in the stories of Millions of asylum seekers and migrants throughout Europe over decades. If he seriously believes that trafficking has only just revealed itself, he is not fit to make the pronouncements he does on the behaviour of those who try to get to the UK.
Mr Elphicke argues that if the Jungle is broken up, that this will end the ’causes of this crisis’ as though it is the draw of this deprived refugee and migrant camp that brings people to this part of France. He states ‘Dismantling the camp will remove this magnet for refugees and migrants, conned into heading for Calais by traffickers’. In one sense he is right, these people are brought or travel to Calais as a stopping off point, but like all steps mid way in a journey, remove one and another, or others will quickly take their place. Indeed his own words explain that Calais is no longer seen as the place to go to gain access to lorries, because the magnet and desired destination is the UK, not Northern France!
Mr Elphicke speaks of numbers of these people on the move as though 10,000 which is the number he suggests is the population of the Camp is a large number, when there are places outside of Europe that have absorbed Millions and within Europe that have absorbed 100,000’s of such people. Our Government has refused to take any from Calais apart from unaccompanied children, most of who remain in the camp at great risk to themselves despite our false promises. We have promised to take 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020, and yet by April 2016 had only taken 1,600. It is perverse that this situation exists in the light of our own inaction knowing that there are many Syrians in the Jungle.
Mr Elphicke calls for ‘a new Dover patrol to guard the Channel and catch people traffickers on the high seas’ even though most of the police agencies along the coastal strip believe that the numbers arriving by boat are very small, and certainly that they are not trying to gain entry to Dover itself.
Finally Mr Elphicke writes ‘This is the perfect moment to work together to deal with the causes of this crisis once and for all. Let’s restore order at the border by dismantling the Calais camp and smashing the modern-day slavery peddled by people traffickers.’ Mr Elphicke is not unintelligent, yet he claims that the causes of the human misery, of people travelling thousands of miles is because the Jungle exists. This is plainly stupid. The Jungle exists because people travel all this way and then have nowhere else to go in their journey to try to get to the UK. In January a piece in the Independent assessed the camp to include ‘at least 500 former British army interpreters in the Jungle who have fled their homes after our armed forces withdrew from Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya’ Another assessment of the camp from a year ago suggests ‘There are many nationalities among the 2000 plus people living in the ‘Jungle 2’ camp near the northern French port of Calais. Sudanese, Afghans, Syrians and Eritreans: all united by histories of conflict and poverty that propelled them from home to here.’
On 2nd December 2015 Charlie Elphicke voted along with most in his party to allow the RAF to begin bombing Syria. Since that time despite some in the debate calling for a strategy for our part in the Syrian conflict, the Government has failed to deliver one. If we had a strategy it may not stem the bombing and atrocities on that nation, however it is clear that there are links between those in the Jungle and those who are connected to many of the conflicts that we have been involved in. If Charlie Elphicke is looking for causes of people moving across Europe, he could try comparing our military activities with the source of these asylum seekers who are now trying to find a place of safety.