Thursday, 2 July 2015

Cameron's Fable

One of Aesop's most memorable fables tells the tale of the sun and the wind attempting to get a man to remove his coat as he walks along a road. The harder the wind blows, the harder the man grips his coat and the wind ultimately fails. The sun then comes out and shines brightly bathing the traveller in pleasant warmth. Within a few minutes, the man takes his coat off and continues his journey in great comfort with his coat under his arm. 

Well-meaning liberal types like the teacher from whom I first heard this story in a school assembly many years ago, and probably like David Cameron, would say that it shows the power of kindness and giving versus raw brute strength. They're not entirely wrong, but another way to look at it would be the power of incentives and the impotence of applying ever greater force against them. 

Britain appears to be trying to be both the fierce north wind and the pleasant sun and ends up being a wet weekend. The sun which we shine so brightly on those in the third world is the idea of Britain as an open, multicultural paradise where housing, education, healthcare and even cash are simply lavished on anyone who manages to get across the channel, and if you are so inclined, the abundant well paying jobs will make you rich beyond your wildest dreams. We even send our navy to the Mediterranean, hundreds of miles from the British mainland, to actively assist illegal immigrants crossing from North Africa to Italy. We have regular stories in our tabloids of families of a dozen illegal immigrants claiming benefits and housing which would be out of the reach of many ordinary working people.

Of course many decide this is too good to pass up, and so turn up at Calais ready for their passage to the land of plenty. At this point the bright and friendly sun disappears and the cold north wind blows miles of security fencing, CCTV cameras, steep fines for anyone caught transporting them (even if they didn't know it and reported it to the authorities as soon as possible, see here) and apparently a host of other "tough" measures to combat this problem. 

All this is incredibly foolish, and it isn't even kind.

First of all, let's deal with kindness. I've spent enough time in less wealthy parts of the world, particularly Asia, to know that there are a good many people in these countries who believe they can simply turn up in England and set up a noodle stall or start driving a taxi and instantly make 5 or 10 times the money they make at present. Surely they think, you can share a room with some friends make money and live the good life. 

So they fall prey to criminal gangs who charge them good money to transport them and promise work which often turns out to be prostitution or something else illegal and exploitative. The journey itself is often perilous as testified by the number of illegal immigrants who are fished out of the Mediterranean or towed into port by the authorities. How many more don't get saved or die on route to the departure points (some of them are from sub-Saharan Africa) is anyone's guess. 

They don't consider the fact that they will be an illegal immigrant in a country which doesn't want them, where the language and the culture are completely alien to them and legitimate employment strictly off limits. It's too cold to sleep outside and it's horrendously expensive. This is not 19th century New York where you can walk into a job as a labourer on Monday morning and get a nice wad of cash on Friday, or head out into the vast unpopulated continent and seek your fortune. It's an old, settled and densely populated country with limited resources.

So they fall prey to criminal gangs who charge them good money to transport them and promise work which often turns out to be prostitution or something else illegal and exploitative. The journey itself is often perilous. Looking at the number of illegal immigrants who are fished out of the Mediterranean or towed into port by the authorities. How many more don't get saved or die on route to the departure points, some of them are from sub-Saharan Africa, is anyone's guess. 

Our supposed kindness is encouraging them to risk life and limb for a false promise. However, these people are desperate and still willing to try. 

In order to stop this, we need a simple, clear and consistent policy of making sure that illegal immigrants caught in the UK are deported and blacklisted. We need to make sure people caught knowingly employing, housing or transporting illegal immigrants are punished severely enough to make it not worthwhile. And above all we need to stop helping them coming here. Any boat caught bringing illegal immigrants from Africa to Europe should be turned around and escorted back to it's departure point, anyone caught in the back of a lorry at Dover should be returned to France on the next ferry without question. 

Stopping illegal immigrants is not about having more or higher fences, it needs the political will to make it not worthwhile. We have the laws in place anyway, we have the vessels on patrol and towing boats anyway, and we have an immigration policy whereby legitimate migrants can live and work in the UK without needing to stow away in the back of lorries. We just don't have the fortitude to actually uphold these laws. Until we do they will keep coming in ever greater numbers, and we will have these desperate scenes at our ports and the empty tough talking from Cameron and others.