Tim Farron goes to Calais to see the humanitarian crisis for himself

For Tim Farron, the situation in Calais has always been primarily a humanitarian one. He was furious last week when David Cameron described the desperately vulnerable people there as a “swarm.” Most recently he asked Cameron to make sure that we were doing our fair share to end the “immeasurable suffering” of the people in Calais. He wrote:

I am sure you agree that it is heartbreaking to see hundreds of desperate people subsisting in makeshift camps night after night, willing to risk life and limb in the hope of a better future while many in Kent and across the country see their daily lives hugely disrupted through no fault of their own.

I welcome your commitment yesterday to providing France with the resources needed to deal with the situation and am writing to seek assurances that alongside the necessary security measures, support will also be given to humanely process those seeking asylum, return those who have no right to remain, and ensure that, in line with international obligations, standards of welfare and accommodation are urgently improved.

Today he went to Calais to see the situation on the ground for himself.

I’ve been in Calais today meeting with refugees and NGO workers to learn about the situation on the ground pic.twitter.com/1kIJncgmDV

And he’s not just gone and met with “officials.” He’s actually been talking to refugees themselves.

No doubt we will hear more from him in the next few days about his experience in Calais.

Update: Here he is talking to the Guardian:

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  • Richard Underhill 4th Aug '15 - 10:36pm


  • Eddie Sammon 4th Aug '15 - 10:58pm

    This is good stuff. I was wondering where Tim was.

    I don’t agree with shouting about being pro immigration, but this isn’t about being pro immigration, it’s about helping people and if that is the message that gets across then he’ll win many friends.

  • Richard Underhill 4th Aug '15 - 11:05pm

    Let’s wait and see whether he calls for a recall of parliament.
    If he does it would offer an opportunity for some to call for job-share MPs.

  • I am impressed that Tim went to see the problems in Calais for himself and to talk to people on the ground. That will give what he says on this issue so much more credibility.

  • Steve Comer 5th Aug '15 - 12:26am

    I was pleased to see Tim do this as well. It would also be good if he could go and talk to some of the lorry drivers stuck on the M20 due to the illegfal blockades against Eurotunnel.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Aug '15 - 7:33am

    The blockades are not entirely about immigration. Eurotunnel’s closure of a ferry business is at issue.

  • Richard Stallard 5th Aug '15 - 8:04am

    Plus risk of serious physical harm to travellers (especially lorry/coach drivers), the very real possibility of transport and other businesses going down the pan and huge costs due to spoilt goods.

    Don’t be naive – this is organised crime, and very lucrative organised crime at that.

  • @Steve Comer – Yes I hope he has/will speak to the truck drivers, yet I am proud of Tim for taking this initiative.

  • There is no evidence of harm coming to truck drivers/travellers from the migrants, but there is evidence of violence inflicted by lorry drivers against migrants. However, it would be good to talk to those drivers and businesses affected by the strikes in France and point out the absurdity and waste of Cameron’s plans to use Manston to shiif the symptom from one part of Kent to another. The cause of the symptoms in Kent is in Calais and that is where action is needed to process the refugees there and to ensure that the French police take action against the strikers that blockade the entrances to the tunnel and port.

  • Richard Stallard 5th Aug '15 - 10:32am

    “There is no evidence of harm coming to truck drivers/travellers from the migrants, but there is evidence of violence inflicted by lorry drivers against migrants.”

    Naive in the extreme – do your research. It is organised crime we are talking about here.

  • I note Tim’s comments with interest:

    [I] am writing to seek assurances that alongside the necessary security measures, support will also be given to humanely process those seeking asylum, return those who have no right to remain, and ensure that, in line with international obligations, standards of welfare and accommodation are urgently improved.

    The section I have highlighted is one that we find a deafening silence from all the major parties, and is the one that goes most of the way to creating the resentment that the tabloids are so keen to exploit.

    I hope we will hear more from Tim Farron on this.

  • gemma stockford 5th Aug '15 - 11:20am

    These things need saying. Wish more media would report it.
    No point in us if we don’t stand up and shout for fairness for all.

  • Denis Loretto 5th Aug '15 - 1:23pm

    It is a worry that something as newsworthy as a UK party leader going to Calais and spelling out a distinct view on this major international problem is ignored by the media. As far as I can see only the PoliticsHome website has covered this so far – apart from LDV of course. I fear that this is going to be the pattern and I trust our leadership are doing their best to persuade the media that the Liberal Democrats must still be regarded as an important part of the body politic. If we don’t win this one we really are in trouble.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Aug '15 - 2:10pm

    Roger Roberts 5th Aug ’15 – 10:03am
    “To ask Her Majesty’s Government, what measures are to be put in place to ensure immigration officers can deal with asylum claims quickly and e fficiently, in light of the Court of Appeal’s ruling of “Detained Fast Track” as unlawful?”

    Roger, You are hugely popular at conference. etc, but is it too late to ask whether the phrase “immigration officers ” is a little loose? Put in initial capital letters (Immigration Officers) and you are talking about staff with particlur skills, experience, training pay levels and shift rotas. Doing asylum interviews requires a good knowledge of the complexities of the 1951 UN Convention on the status of refugees and knowledge of the background circumstances in the country of origin. Please take up the idea of asking UNHCR to interview people in Calais, although that needs the agreement of the French they are obviously overloaded.

    Staff who make asylum decisions or present cases at asylum appeals before Immigration Judges need training and expertise which it would be unwise to dilute too much with other duties such as checking the passports of tourists at 5 o’clock in the morning.

  • Denis Loretto
    Or create our own media. Not so many are watching TV or buying newspapers now.
    Years ago Focus leaflets were effective where local newspapers ignored the Liberals.
    Calling all young Liberal Democrat media students.

  • Richard Underhill 6th Aug '15 - 9:36am

    Richard Stallard 5th Aug ’15 – 8:04am “Plus risk of serious physical harm to travellers (especially lorry/coach drivers), the very real possibility of transport and other businesses going down the pan and huge costs due to spoilt goods. Don’t be naive – this is organised crime, and very lucrative organised crime at that.”

    With political co-operation and adequate resources it is possible to solve very difficult problems, such as piracy and modern piracy.

  • Richard Underhill 6th Aug '15 - 9:38am

    This is only anecdotal, but a couple of straws in the wind.
    1) A young relative of my wife’s was getting married, so we went to a reception at a hotel near Heathrow. In the church a man wearing lederhosen was giving out Church of England prayer books. He was a friend of the groom. He told us that although he was an illegal immigrant the hotel had been employing him. They said he was a good worker. Because Austria was joining the EU they had reviewed his position and decided to keep him on. Because Austria was joining the EU he would become legal on 1 January next, so they also doubled his wages.

  • Richard Underhill 6th Aug '15 - 9:38am

    2) A group of comedians, including John Cleese, had noticed thar “all the waiters in London restaurants were Spanish”. Therefore in Fawlty Towers they included a Spanish waiter, whose English was not very good, and who had cultural difficulties with the mentality of his Fawlty employer. The programme was sold to Spain, but the waiter was no longer from Barcelona (prosperous, well governed and Catalan) but from another part of Spain. Spain and Portugal were not in the EU at the time, although they were no longer under dictatorships.
    3) As part of a training course for aspiring Liberal Democrats visited the European Parliament (probably the one in Brussels). A group of Liberal, Democratic and Reform MEPs from several countries had a secretariat, including a Brit who was bi-lingual in French. He told us that the issue of Spanish and Portuguese people working in France, Belgium and Luxembourg was very sensitive and we should tread carefully. Subsequently Spain and Portugal were admitted simultaneously to the EU and Spain joined Portugal in NATO after a referendum.
    4) The same kind of issues arose when Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, three years later than their neighbours and with a transition period of seven years which has expired. The UK had an arrangement for Bulgarian seasonal farm workers to pick crops for a few months in the UK, return home for the winter and re-apply, if they wished, the following year. I asked a senior Home Office official whether we really needed these people and was told about the power of certain interests in the UK, in this case the farmers. The scheme ended during the coalition government because Bulgaria had become a full member of the EU.
    5) Visiting Brussels in 2014 I asked an official of the EU Parliament about the position of the countries which were totally surrounded by the EU, not Switzerland, which has multiple agreements, but Albania and the former Yugoslavia. He said that they were all small countries economically, no problem. Cynical Albanians had said that there was no point in paying to get an Albanian passport because no country would give them a visa.

  • David Evans 7th Aug '15 - 4:09pm

    Denis Loretto – Tim did get about 20 seconds on Channel 4 News about his visit to Calais, but that was all I saw.

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Aug '15 - 10:16pm

    I would like to see Tim, after his excellent visit to Calais, proposing a fast-track system being set up there jointly by Britain and France to register the immigrants, and grant them temporary leave to remain in France or to come to Britain (for instance if they have family or friends here), while the necessary checks are made. This would give the people some hope, so likely to reduce their desperate efforts to cross the Channel.

  • suzanne fletcher 9th Aug '15 - 5:46pm

    First huge thanks to Roger Roberts for the work done in putting down all those questions, I am not hopeful of good answers, but questionning is so important.
    Thanks too Katharine Pindar for such a good constructive suggestion. we need more of those, and less carping.

  • Christine Headley 10th Aug '15 - 1:00am

    I can’t remember where I saw reference to Robin Lustig’s blog on this – it’s at http://lustigletter.blogspot.co.uk/2015_07_01_archive.html and highly recommended. Most asylum seekers go to Germany and Sweden. His latest blog points out that he has a personal interest in such things, dating from the 1930s.

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