Solution to Calais crisis lies in international development

All the unpleasantness of the last few days’ reaction to the ongoing Calais crisis is perhaps just a taste of the difficult challenge it will be for Liberals to uphold decency in the coming years. In my view, the best way to form a powerfully Liberal stance on this issue is to reinforce to the public that the solution to this crisis, as well as others (Islamic extremism, the environment etc.) lies in a field of policy often neglected by mainstream debate: International Development. But for us to form that policy, we must face some difficult home truths.

Every ideology has an extremist form. Every tool that can construct a better world can be used as a weapon to make a darker, crueller one. In the field of international development, it is time for Liberals like ourselves to recognise that we are not exempt from this fact. It is time for our party to develop a stance on development that differentiates us from the major parties and their blind stance to the free market fundamentalism of the current key institutions, the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organisation, so that Britain can play its part in reforming them when we return to government.

The core problem here is that the ideology that underpins these institutions bears our name. – Neoliberalism, a warped form of economic liberalism. Our commitment to economic liberalism remains vital, but it must not extend to supporting a fundamentalist version that has facilitated exploitation of developing countries and exacerbated humanitarian crises in many cases.

We must recognise that enforced privatisation of public services has exacerbated inequality in places like Ghana and Bolivia, and crippled the ability of governments to respond to humanitarian crises and poverty as it has in Haiti and across Sub-Saharan Africa. We must recognise that enforced “liberalisation” of trade and markets at inappropriate times in the development process means developing countries are crawling when they should be running. Infant industries from Sierra Leone to Somalia are unable to compete when exposed to the powerful winds of global markets, where (mostly western) TNCs are already fully formed and unshakably dominant. Free trade can seemingly only avoid exploitation when it occurs between economies of similar development.

We can as a party push international development up the agenda if we remind people that in a global society, we see at home the positive impact of a positive foreign policy. To lower poverty in, and improve the industry of Ghana and South Sudan is to reduce immigration into the UK. To stabilise the security and economy of Somalia is to reduce the security threat to the UK. The first step towards realising this is to show people that the current tools to this end are malfunctioning.

We have a bold commitment to both protecting the exploited and internationalism. We accept that there are fundamental areas where market forces are inappropriate in domestic policy. It’s time we accepted that the same is true in foreign policy, and simultaneously shed light and set the agenda on International Development over the next decade and beyond.

* Guy Russo was the Parliamentary Candidate in Enfield North at the General Election and is an Ex-President of the Queen Mary University of London Liberal Democrats.

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  • Richard Stallard 30th Jul '15 - 5:58pm

    The solution to the Calais problem does NOT lie in international development – not in the short and medium terms at least, although in the long (VERY long) term, it might help a bit.
    Most of the countries you have mentioned (Sierra Leone, Somalia etc.) are nowhere near ready to be run in the way First World countries are – i.e. democratically. The tribal nature of their populations (combined with conflicting religions, in many cases) means that that there will continue to be wars, dictatorships etc. in all of them for many, many years to come.
    Yes, as a starry-eyed, long-term vision, you are not incorrect, but to link it to the present problems in Calais and put it forward as a solution to that, is way off the mark.

  • Richard Underhill 30th Jul '15 - 6:32pm

    Richard Stallard 30th Jul ’15 – 5:58pm
    Yes, the Calais problem is urgent, but democracy continues to advance into countries considered most unlikely.

  • I would be very happy to see some of our aid budget being directed in this way. Our civil servants cannot shovel away the huge sums fast enough and corrupt regimes, bent consultants and downright wasteful black holes cannot cope with the deluge now that the control is to spend rather than to decide what needs help.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jul '15 - 7:58pm

    It’s an interesting article, but first of all the IMF etc. do not believe in free market fundamentalism (Germany was to the right of the IMF during the recent Greece negotiations) and secondly there are many other problems that cause the crisis besides inefficient aid spending.

    We need international aid and to make sure some is spent on their military. No point in building a country up if some militants take it over with a small army.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jul '15 - 8:37pm

    I’m getting frustrated with this Calais Crisis now. We can’t just ignore it or let everyone in. We need a proper EU wide system for asylum seekers. It shouldn’t be like a pick and mix where they pick which countries to go to and they shouldn’t have to suffer in an awful makeshift camp.

    We need to help the mediterranean countries, but a liberal aim should be to get rid of this camp in Calais. Whether you want a bigger camp or no camp everyone should agree that tents with thousands of migrants risking their lives and climbing into lorries is not acceptable.

  • Tomas Howard-Jones 30th Jul '15 - 11:15pm

    Eddie: I don’t believe it’s a question of Germany being “to the right” of the IMF during the recent Greece negotiations.

    Germany didn’t want to cut the debts that Greece held.
    The IMF stated that it thought Germany was unrealistic in expecting Greece to be able to lift its economy any time soon without cutting its debt.

    But do you REALLY believe that the IMF was suggesting they would bail out Greece?
    Of course it wasn’t! It would expect the Germans or the EU to pay the debt themselves- i.e. from Germany, or other EU countries…

    It’s surely not a question of left or right, but a question on what being a member of the EU club should mean. Are club members meant to help each other out when one is in need?

    WIth regards to the main article, it’s absolutely correct. It’s ultimately not a Liberal position to welcome all very determined and resourceful immigrants (many in Calais, which does include many refugees too: I don’t know the split, and the distinction of many folk there trying to illegally cross into Britain is blurred), as doing so strips those countries of those parts of the population that should be contributing to building those societies.

    That’s why a proper Liberal approach should be tackling those causes of mass migration by engaging with those governments to recognise their human potential potential in their manpower, and negotiate with them on trade deals which may be unfair- like the EU dumping its agricultural surplus that undercuts local farming produce in those poorer countries, such as West African ones.

    As the article indicates, the mass transfer of large populations from poorer countries to richer ones is both a form of neoliberal markets that ultimately suits the purposes of a wealthy super-elite , and also a by-product of free-market colonialism.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jul '15 - 11:31pm

    Tomas, if you want to respond to the immediate crisis in Calais with the call to “increase foreign aid until it goes away” then you won’t be given the time of day.

    There needs to be an immediate solution now. Not just a wish for more foreign aid and less poverty.

  • Eddie Sammon 31st Jul '15 - 6:43am

    By the way, you are right to say that “tackling the causes of mass migration” is better than simply letting everyone in, but we still need some rules need to be enforced immediately.

    They should have to claim asylum in France and we should help them as part of an EU wide quota system. The ones that can speak good English will probably be better off here and can contribute to our economy.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Jul '15 - 8:59am

    Partially it is about climate change, one of the four horses of the Apocalypse, partially it is about transport, substantially it is about god and bad governance, but do we not want miltary invasions of the worst governed countries? There are so many of them and, despite substantial expenditure and resources, Iraq has not been perfected yet.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Jul '15 - 8:59am

    Typo, Sorry ‘ good governance’.

  • The UK needs to cooperate better with the EU on this immediate problem, especially working better with France.
    While Germany takes over 40% of migrants into the EU and France takes 14%, we only take 5%. According to the Independent, last year we took 30,000, while France took double that and Germany took 5 times that. There are other considerations, but we must play a more constructive part.
    As to long term solutions, this does provide an opportunity to highlight to the public the importance of international aid, that it is in the interests of everyone including ourselves. There is however, one other ingredient in the solution, only hinted at above by the mention of the Common Agricultural Policy and that is FAIR TRADE.
    As the Fair Trade movement states, this is not about charity (in the legal sense of that word), it is about enabling trade and business to be a way out of poverty and strife, by providing a more stable sustainable way for poorer people to do business and hence develop themselves in a dignified manner.

  • Nigel suggests :
    “While Germany takes over 40% of migrants into the EU and France takes 14%, we only take 5%.”
    Those figures are just spurious, and a few moments of thought will tell you why. Asylum seekers that wish to come to the UK, are just as likely to seek asylum in Germany and France, because once processed, they will over time get EU citizenship with a passport.
    With an EU citizenship, they can come and go to the UK as they wanted all along. So be under no illusion, some of the 40% that Germany took on board are probably already in the UK.?

  • Richard

    “Iraq not perfected yet” is perhaps the understatement of the year!

  • Katerina Porter 31st Jul '15 - 3:27pm

    One attraction of Britain that a lot if these speak English, and don’t know German or French. We did not want the Jews in in the thirties, but exceptional people here helped and we know now much these refugees contributed.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Jul '15 - 4:09pm

    John Dunn 31st Jul ’15 – 11:52am Comparing figures for Belgium and Holland made me wonder whether the likelihood of being recognised as a refugee would affect the decisions of asylum seekers who have a choice. Canada has been generous, but its only borders are with the USA. Germany’s geographical position is a factor. They have mainly land borders. The UK has mainly sea.

  • Not really sure of the point you are making Richard?
    One thing I’m absolutely sure about, is that there are NO asylum seekers camped out in Calais. They can only logically be economic migrants, unless they are fleeing persecution from the French authorities?

  • Richard Underhill 31st Jul '15 - 4:33pm

    The previous Labour government was building a database for identity cards. As leader of the opposition David Cameron was persuaded to oppose identity cards on grounds only of cost, although his mentor, Michael Howard, had been stronglty in favour. One of the conditions in the Coalition Agreement was about the destruction of the physical discs on which the database had been stored.

    The UK had identy cards during World War II (without modern computers) which was about a widespread fear of Axis spies being parachuted into the UK at night, as we did into France.
    The Labour governments of 1945-50 and 1950-1951 did not abolish them.
    During the following Conservative government a policeman stopped a man and asked for his identity card, to be told that a British citizen should not need one. Despite arrest, conviiction and imprisonment the stubborn Brit. Cit, refused to comply. The law was changed. There is a statue in the National Liberal Club.
    Liberal parties in other European democracies do not see a problem.
    The issue was discussed on BBC Radio 4 World at One on 31/7/2015.
    Labour’s Jack Straw had another idea, which is the restoration of tighter border controls within the Schengen Area.
    He thought that his own idea is unlikely to happen.
    The UK has a pragmatic concession that someone who has been here for 14 years can be granted permission to stay, which provides a kind of rolling amnesty, but they need to provide evidence. Catch 22.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Jul '15 - 4:42pm

    Katerina Porter 31st Jul ’15 – 3:27pm ” … Jews in in the thirties …” Jewish children were accepted. For instance please see Richard Attenborough;s autobiography “Entirely up to you darling”. He quotes the parents as saying to young Richard and David that they, the children, should decide, which they did.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Jul '15 - 4:46pm

    Katerina Porter 31st Jul ’15 – 3:27pm “One attraction of Britain that a lot if these speak English, and don’t know German or French.” Yes, but English is spoken in many other countries. Probably very few speak Swedish. the Swedish language is similar to danish and Norwegian, but the rate of acceptance is higher.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Jul '15 - 4:50pm

    Andrew 31st Jul ’15 – 12:25pm Emma Nicholson would also have mentioned the eecological destruction of the environment of the March Arabs,

  • Richard Underhill 31st Jul '15 - 8:00pm

    John Dunn 31st Jul ’15 – 4:31pm “Not really sure of the point you are making Richard?
    One thing I’m absolutely sure about, is that there are NO asylum seekers camped out in Calais.
    They can only logically be economic migrants, unless they are fleeing persecution from the French authorities?”
    You are right to say or imply that individuals might be persecuted in a country which is generally safe. A court in Boston, USA granted asylum on the basis of fear about Northern Ireland, despite the usual argument in the 1951 UN Convention about there being areas with a country which are safe (known as internal flight).
    We should say again that the phrase “economic migrant” is an irrelevance to an asylum claim. Someone is recognised as a refugee or refused, an appeal is allowed or dismissed. Such a person can be rich or poor. When the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe came to Belfast he would have had a strong asylum claim, but he did not make one. he returned to Zimbabwe.
    You are right to say thaat France is a safe country. What are called “third party” removals to France depend on France being safe. The Anglo-French “Gentlemens’ Agreement” has been superseded.
    It is wrong to say that they must be economic migrants, such people can apply for a visa under the Immigration Rules and some of them would be granted leave to enter. We do not know what their motives are until they apply for something, somewhere, and are processed. The system is very complicated. Where a country detects criminality it may detain people, try them , deport them and prevent them returning .

  • Again Richard, I’m not grasping the point you are making.?
    My take on the situation is that those 5000 economic migrants in Calais,.. if they successfully make their way to the UK have no intention of getting a National Insurance number, getting a regular job, and paying PAYE tax, or frankly, any tax, given that they intend to be ‘off radar’?
    Their intent is more likely to try to work and live ‘under the radar’ of UK tax and normal work practises and regulations, with no intention of becoming UK citizens.?
    If I’m right,.. is that, economic immigrant *under the radar working*, with no tax, no respect for employment law, and no acceptance of Health and Safety,…etc,… acceptable to Lib Dems?

  • Tomas Howard-Jones 1st Aug '15 - 1:08pm

    Eddie Sammon:
    “Tomas, if you want to respond to the immediate crisis in Calais with the call to “increase foreign aid until it goes away” then you won’t be given the time of day. There needs to be an immediate solution now. Not just a wish for more foreign aid and less poverty.”

    Eddie, I didn’t call for an “increase foreign aid until it goes away” so it’s a bit cheeky for you to put it in quotes as if I did! Nor did this article by Guy Russo.

    I agree with the article’s premise that the solution is a longer term one that requires ENGAGEMENT (Not the same thing as increasing foreign aid!) with those poorer countries where many of migrants come from for better lives- West and East african countries. This won’t of course deal with people fleeing from civil war or persecution.

    ENGAGEMENT means negotiating with these countries to agree how setting fairer trade terms between the EU and them will improve their societies as a whole, by getting those governments to engage on how best to improve infrastructure for local business’s ability to get their goods and services to their own local markets.

    At present, the EU dumps heavily subsidised surplus onto those poor countries that flatten their agricultural economy and EU countries at best shrug their collective shoulders as those poor countries’ ruling elite suck money out of their countries to invest in buying houses in London or shopping trips in Paris etc.

    EU system towards, ok, a more benign “colonialist encouragement” to improve those societies’

    The EU may lose a little in the short-term , by negotiating this unjust colonialist economic power (dumping our subsidised produce on them) which is ‘laissez- faire’ and notionally free-market but fixed markets when it suits us, towards such interventionism that pushes those countries to build their own mixed economies for benefits spread across their societies to grow their economies with such trade reforms.

    Such paternalistic-seeming trade reform negotiations between EU & poor West & East African countries should help create more stable, fairer societies in those countries. It also gives real impetus to President Obama’s recent trip to Kenya & call for economic growth in East africa.

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Aug '15 - 1:20pm

    Thanks Tomas. Interesting stuff about the dumping of excess production. There is a problem though because many farmers in the EU (for instance French) are currently going ballistic about their prices being undercut, so it is hard to see a radical change in this for a while.

    I didn’t mean to quote you, I was quoting myself as a way to summarise my thoughts. I realised afterwards it could be misconstrued, so I put a second comment down a bit more polite.


  • Tomas Howard-Jones 1st Aug '15 - 1:24pm

    In the short term, your suggestions that everyone piling up in Calais should be given refugee status in France is not fair to France- or Italy, where many of the migrants have travelled from, despite the French trying to block their passage from Italy into France, as Britain does in Dover.

    The hard truth- tough for all liberals who keenly extoll the benefits of immigration and cosmopolitan societies- is that the EU should some up with a concerted plan in sharing the responsibility of processing those migrants by separating those from countries not in civil war/ persecution and co-ordinate flights to return those people to the various countries.

    This may seem heartless, but it’s the only way to discourage the phenomenon from getting worse. And this is why the longer-term plan about the economic situation in those countries is so important as part of the answer, as those people are returned to their countries. We can’t cherry pick those better educated ones to stay in the EU either, because they are needed to build and improve their home countries!

    I believe it is mistaken to say it is liberal to remove the well-educated people from poor countries to serve in our countries- it’s a form of colonialism that rips out the investment and ability of the poorer countries to ever grow and progress.

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Aug '15 - 1:43pm

    I don’t think everyone in the Calais camp should be given refugee status in France, but I think they should have to apply there. Yvette Cooper said this the other day. I also think we need to stop making the UK so attractive for them.

    As an example, some people in France reckon it is too easy to work as an illegal immigrant in the UK. So we need to strengthen employment checks. One pull factor will be the language, but we can’t do much about that. However we should look at other pull factors.

    As you say: it is not fair on the other countries if the UK just takes everyone in.

  • Tomas Howard-Jones 1st Aug '15 - 1:45pm

    Oops…I didn’t mean simply returning those migrants fleeing persecution & civil war! i meant those who AREN’T in such predicaments.
    (There may be an argument for some of those from some of those terrible crises, to see if some can be returned, depending on the situation, and helping such countries under civil war calming down)

    Eddie, I agree that there is some duplicity in the French defending their produce from being undercut- but It shouldn’t be about allowing Ghanaian tomatoes squashing French or Italian tomato markets- just allow Ghanaian tomatoes to be economically viable in Ghana!

    Here in Britain, we’re susceptible to similar practices as the French. Few British populations will tackle the question on unsustainable British fishing practices (besides what other EU countries may also do!) – but this is another whole topic on something that should change… such changes are always difficult to sell to end consumers wanting e.g. cheap fish, in a democratic liberal society. Not Impossible, though, for truely great politicians that look after our countries’ long-term interests properly to achieve!

  • Tomas Howard-Jones 1st Aug '15 - 1:51pm

    Sorry, another mistake…I meant to say ‘Few British Politicians’, not populations!

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Aug '15 - 2:59pm

    Interesting stuff Tomas. Do you have a link about this excess production dumping? Is the problem not that there is too much protectionism in European fishing and farming, or is the problem more complicated than that?

    The French farmers are also blaming the supermarkets for pushing prices down, but some sort of settlement needs to be achieved in order to reduce protectionism without mega strikes and destroying industries.

  • Richard Underhill 1st Aug '15 - 6:13pm

    John Dunn 31st Jul ’15 – 11:35pm “My take on the situation is that those 5000 economic migrants in Calais,.. if they successfully make their way to the UK have no intention of getting a National Insurance number, ”
    John, I do not want to encourage abuse, but these assumptions should be checked against the facts because the interfaces between different systems can contain unexpected loopholes for soem as well as frustrations for others.

  • Richard Underhill 1st Aug '15 - 6:19pm

    It is common sense and a widely held view that people fleeing a civil war should have protection.
    In which case legislate.
    The refugee convention protects people who are fleeing persecution as signed in 1951 and expanded in 1967.
    Plus the Human Rights Act 1998.

  • Tomas Howard-Jones 3rd Aug '15 - 9:19pm

    Eddie, just read your last note. The nearest I have to a recent article I’ve just found on negative impacts of ‘free trade’ for the EU to exploit West African resources while undercutting those local West African economies can be found in this article, which is only a well-argued opinion, but has some facts that my arguments have sadly failed to provide!

    Unfortunately I don’t have direct evidence of my earlier anecdote of EU dumping surplus agriculture at subsidised prices in west african countries. There was an interesting article I read a few years ago in a UK periodical like the Economist or New Statesman, but I’ve lost it! Yet it stuck in my mind as, on second-hand observation, some West African friends confirmed how tinned italian tomatoes were cheaper than fresh local tomatoes, so were more popular.

    However, that link to the Al-Jazeera article is an interesting read and seems to suggest, at best, a lack of joined-up thinking by the EU to exploit its interests on ECOWAS so ruthlessly, without thinking of the consequences of tying ECOWAS countries’ trade to the EU while stifling their industry….

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