Razing half a camp with bulldozers is not a solution

Dunkirk refugee camp

Razing half a camp with bulldozers, flanked by riot police is not a solution Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has said as the French government was given the green light to plan to clear part of the Calais migrant camp known as the ‘Jungle’.

This situation is a heart-breaking symptom of a wider human humanitarian disaster in the Middle East. Razing half a camp with bulldozers, flanked by riot police is not a solution.

Moving people from a tent to a shipping container will have very little impact.  The families I met in Calais were people and families from places like Iraq and Syria fleeing war and instability.  These people are trying to look for a place of peace where they can make a new life for them and their family, at least until it’s safe enough to return home. These measures will not help one jot to deal with the issue.

In the camp it is estimated that there are around 300 unaccompanied children. The UK government should do the right thing and urgently act to identify children with family in Britain and offer them refuge immediately.

I call for assurances that these refugees will be treated humanely, rather than as criminals, and for the French authorities to set out a long term, sustainable plan for them. Without these answers it is more likely these desperate people will head back to the channel tunnel and attempt deadly crossings once again.

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 26th Feb '16 - 1:36pm

    I agree with Tim !

    However, two caveats.

    Firstly, more often than not we support refugees, but some may not be that, these people cannot be interviewed about their status , from a tent.Bulldozers are not the answer, though, two wrongs do not make a right, yet, might make a riot !

    Secondly, we need continued constructive criticism of the French authorities, as well as the UK government, when necessary, not the latter only !

    The situation in Calais should not have been allowed to develop . Huts may well be better than tents . But there is a wider and far more complex and potentially chaotic problem there.To bulldoze it away is not a proper solution.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Feb '16 - 1:50pm

    Two thoughts on this:

    1. I’m more surprised by Belgium re-introducing border-checks with France in anticipation of this decision. Belgium is meant to be federalist, not a country you would expect to postpone Schengen.

    2. An interesting professor of Durham University thinks this was the right decision. He thinks the conditions in the camp are terrible and that as long as alternative accommodation can be found it is the right thing to do.


    He’s also a Labour member, I’ve not just found a right wing academic.

  • David Evershed 26th Feb '16 - 6:55pm

    Who knew that France is in such a poor state that these people prefer to live in tents in the mud with the hope of illegally entering the UK rather than apply for refugee status in France.

  • People talk about the camp in Calais as if it has sprung up recently and is filled with genuine refugees from places like Syria. This is pretty misleading given that it’s well known there have been camps in Calais since the 1990s, and for most of the time since the inhabitants have included economic migrants as well as refugees. Are we supposed to believe those economic migrants have now disappeared and left the camp for exclusive use by Syrian and Iraqi refugees? That’s what Tim Farron would have us believe.

    Remember Sangatte? As long ago as December 2002, the French and British governments had a brilliant idea for solving the problem. Let 80% of the migrants (1,250 people at the time) come to Britain, distribute the remainder around France, then close the camp for good. Genius – how could it fail? I get the feeling this is the kind of “solution” Tim Farron would like to try now, but the trouble is we know what’s happened in the 14 years since Sangatte was closed.

    If the UK allowed large numbers of these Calais refugees in now, it’s not hard to predict what would happen next. Many more migrants, massively encouraged, would immediately head for Calais, some probably getting killed along the way. Then what? This is not an issue that can be resolved by short-term fixes.

  • I just don’t understand why the young men in Calais don’t get a job and settle down in France. Genuinely baffled. Surely there must be more self-respect in working and earning a living as many immigrants have already done in France. Genuinely baffled!

  • What are the long term fixes, then Stuart? Do you think there is some magic that will put the genie back in the bottle. People have travelled round the world for ever and a day.

  • James Ridgwell 28th Feb '16 - 6:08pm

    Tim’s statement does not advocate letting the people in the camps into the UK, except in the case of unaccompanied children with family in the UK (which is surely fair enough and the right thing for our country to be doing). He is calling for France to treat the people in the camps humanely.

  • @Tim13
    I certainly don’t think there are easy fixes. I want Britain to do its fair bit (at the very least) to harbour refugees, but I start from the position that we should prioritise those who are in the greatest peril, and who are not acting illegally (and sometimes violently) in their attempts to get here. I think it would be fundamentally wrong to move the Calais migrants to the front of the queue for that reason – they should in my view go to the back of the queue. If we were to cave in and let large numbers of them in, it’s blindingly obvious that the camp would fill up again with hours and we’d simply be back to square one, so that wouldn’t be any kind of solution at all.

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