The Channel Crossing Crisis | Tim Dennis
In recent days there has been a sharp increase in debate and media coverage of the record-breaking numbers of migrants of unknown origin and intent crossing the Channel in makeshift craft. It had essentially become unavoidable to do so, bleeding out into political discourse at all levels largely due to the efforts of the divisive head of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage. He has for weeks been filming the arrival of small craft along the UK coast and urging the media and government to take notice of the escalating situation, with (by some estimates) four thousand one hundred migrants having reached the UK by channel crossing up to the 9th August.
It has led among other things to the unedifying spectacle of BBC and Sky News reporters attempting to chase down heavily laden dinghies in order to accost the precariously balanced occupants for details of their country of origin. As Sky reporter Ali Fortescue unselfconsciously declared in a live segment on 11th August, “we got really quite close there” before going on to describe the, “very, very dangerous journey across the English Channel.” Intriguingly, a Twitter account purporting to represent the Manchester arm of Momentum described the coverage in the following fashion on the same day:
“This wasn’t news until Farage sent a couple tweets aimed at riling up his followers. Instantly, the BBC and Sky scrambled to do his dirty work, making a reality show of some of the most desperate people on the planet. Horrifying.”
This is a remarkable set of claims for a number of reasons, not least because the BBC and Sky were presumably launching their own boats because they had been caught on the hop by the upsurge in public interest and felt that this was the best redress to being humbugged by others. The obvious reply would seem to be that if these people are so desperate, then why was it not news before? In the same breath members of the political left bemoan that such crossings happen all the time and that Britain never normally pays attention to their plight. If that is true then mainstream media coverage of a growing issue is surely beneficial. It seems decidedly unlikely that the BBC, in recent times demonstrating an ever increasing left-wing bias, rushed to the Channel in order to amplify Mr Farage, considering the allegations normally levelled at him. The problem for those that actually want to champion the welcoming of illegal crossings is that they are caught needing to shoot the messenger for being the wrong one, as opposed to bringing them a message of which they disapprove.
The coverage and accompanying arguments for how to respond to the illegal crossings are familiar. Attempts to cross the Channel have been taking place for years on an increasing basis and the same debates raged at the height of the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean (and still do). Like any other debate on a topic of note in modern Britain it has become immediately and aggressively polarised. The predictable consequence of this is that a sensible discussion on the reasons for the escalating numbers attempting to cross the Channel cannot be had. Instead anyone of any political persuasion that questions who the people on these boats are, where they come from, why they might be ‘desperate’ to escape continental western Europe, what the pull factors might be that encourage them to do so are or why so many of them are young unaccompanied men are decried as racist for even enquiring. This is a pathetic state of affairs and a common tactic. Considering nothing is know of those in the boats, why should it be accepted on face value that they are refugees or asylum seekers? Being an illegal immigrant is not a racial group and that status under law applies regardless of ethnicity.
It is not hard to imagine that when we inevitably arrive at the moment where there are tragic images of people who have drowned in the Channel that the left will want to leverage as much political capital as possible. An equivalent to the terrible images of Alan Kurdi in 2015 would be the perfect means to silence any opponent to illegal Channel crossings. Doubtless it would be evidence of an intolerant, uncaring, racist Britain. Except if that were true then why would people still be so determined to reach these shores? HM Coast Guard, Border Force and the RNLI, now augmented with military assets are busily engaged in rescuing those out in the dangerous shipping lanes of the Channel. Therein lies a debate that the left wishes to avoid, namely that our generous welfare system, malfunctioning asylum process and humane rescues actually constitute an incentive to attempt the crossing. In particular it profits the reprehensible network of people smugglers encouraging migrants to risk their lives in the Channel. We should be grateful that some on the left decried the idea of employing the Royal Navy to assist, on the ludicrous grounds that they would be used to ram and push back migrant boats. More likely the Royal Navy would find itself providing additional means of rescue, thereby emboldening people smugglers to cast their hapless charges off in ever-greater numbers aboard increasingly poor vessels. This is exactly what happened in the Mediterranean at the height of the migration crisis when European nations deployed ships to try and prevent further loss of life.
The approach used by the left to suppress debate on illegal Channel crossings and immigration in general only shows that it has not learned the lessons that a referendum and general election have provided. Using every opportunity to shout down opponents as racists is not a sustainable tactic. The adults will leave the room, leaving the left with genuine racists and other despicable people that can be used as proof and to further belabour non-conformists. It leads to the left needing to double down ever harder against those that disagree or have been alienated, to avoid confronting hard truths each time an event like the removal of the ‘Red Wall’ by its own traditional voter base occurs. This is small comfort to those opposing the left however; at the moment those tactics continue to stymie debate on topics like immigration and there are few in high office willing to risk themselves. The sad irony is that shallow moralising and cheap point scoring from the left averts the discussion needed to actually protect the people that they profess to care about. The rescue efforts in the Channel are to be applauded but their requirement in the first place needs to be urgently addressed. If it is not then the numbers trying to cross will continue to increase and provoke demands for additional means to affect rescues. It would be a vicious cycle that no rational person with serious consideration for the welfare of the people involved could possibly want to entertain. How many genuine refugees and asylum seekers might lose out as our resources become ever more stretched dealing with those who are not? Perhaps the open ended international promise to take anyone that can make it to the UK should be re-examined? Is it possible that an ever-rising number of people entering this country could sour public sympathy to the detriment of those who sincerely need help? In the current climate we have no means of finding out.