World

The Channel deaths were a tragedy waiting to happen

25 November 2021

7:17 PM

25 November 2021

7:17 PM

Yesterday’s tragedy in the Channel has been ten years in the making. The British tabloids this morning are inevitably pointing the finger at the French for the deaths of 27 migrants who drowned after their dinghy sank not far from Calais, but that lets off the hook those who ultimately bear responsibility for the migrant crisis that afflicts Europe from Sweden to Sicily.

One of those responsible is Angela Merkel, who is preparing to hand over the Chancellery to the insipid Olaf Scholz. Six and a half years ago she took the unilateral decision to open Europe’s borders to more than a million migrants and refugees. ‘We can do this!’ she declared. In an interview earlier this month Merkel claimed she had been vindicated. ‘Yes, we did it. But by “we”, I mean a truly large number of people in Germany who helped get it done.’

As usual, Merkel, the so-called great European, was thinking only in German terms. She should visit southern Italy or northern France, and then perhaps she would understand that large swathes of Europe have been unable ‘to do this’ after all.

Merkel exacerbated a problem that had been created in 2011 by Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron, at the time the leaders of France and Britain. Their intervention in Libya, which led to the fall of President Gaddafi, destabilised the entire region. As a Foreign Affairs Committee report concluded: ‘The UK’s actions in Libya were part of an ill-conceived intervention, the results of which are still playing out today.’

That was in 2016. Five years later the anarchy in Libya is still having disastrous repercussions for Europe as migrants arrive from North Africa. This year there have been almost 60,000 arrivalsin Italy.


I met a couple of them in 2017, two lads from Eritrea, who were put up in a gymnasium in the south of Paris along with dozens of other young African men. Their camp in the north of the city had been broken up earlier that day and the migrants were dispersed across the capital as they periodically are. I talked to them over a fence and they told me their goal was to reach Britain.

I often wonder if they made it or if they tired of the indignity of squalid migrant camps and returned home. They were intelligent and intrepid, the sort of young people a country needs to thrive. This is a fact often overlooked by Europeans; that a great many of those making the perilous trip from Africa and the Middle East are the best and the brightest of their generation who feel they have outgrown their own country. Many who cross the Channel are fleeing persecution but there are those who believe they are heading towards prosperity.

Of the 60,000 migrants who have arrived in Italy this year, the majority are from Tunisia, Bangladesh and Egypt. This point was made by Stephen Smith, the left-wing Franco-American journalist, in his 2018 book The Rush Towards Europe, and this ‘brain-drain’ will have catastrophic consequences for Africa. Who will take their place in shaping the future of their countries?

Europe has had a decade to address the migrant crisis and has done nothing. Blaming the French police for standing idly by while the migrants launch their inadequate boats into the Channel merely allows the EU to evade its responsibilities. The police are demoralised. They’ve had ten years of apathy from their political masters. And why single out the French police? What about those ‘humanitarian’ NGO ships that for years have ferried migrants to Europe. Isn’t that a form of people trafficking of the sort condemned yesterday by Boris Johnson?

Last night Emmanuel Macron called for an urgent meeting of European ministers to address ‘the migrant challenge’. It matters to him more than most because the French go to the polls in five months and there are an estimated 900,000 illegal immigrants in the country.

Most should not be in France. Their journey from Africa or the Middle East took them through Italy, Spain or Germany and that’s where they should be claiming asylum according to the Dublin Regulation.

It’s not Britain’s job to set up processing centres for migrants in Albania, as was reported last week, it’s the EU’s. It should have been done years ago but as is their wont European leaders sat on their hands. This morning they are wringing them for the dozens of poor souls who drowned yesterday. There will be more deaths – in the Channel and in the Med – as long as the EU continues to shirk its responsibilities.

The Sun is right to label yesterday’s tragedy ‘Shameful’ as it does on today’s front page. But don’t blame France, blame Brussels.

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