Tim Farron on Calais refugees: “These are bright, educated people that just want to create a life for themselves.”

While David Cameron uses demeaning language comparing them to insects, Tim Farron takes himself off to Calais to actually meet some of the refugees there. He spoke to Buzzfeed’s Emily Ashton about his experiences. Here are some of the highlights:

An invitation to David Cameron

He should go [to Calais],” said Farron of the prime minister. “I will take him. He should talk to people there and look at the reality of the situation and he should deal with the reality rather than dealing with the myth.

The idea that they are all money grabbing people seeking to claim UK benefits is rubbish

The significant majority in the camp are, according to the French authorities and doctors, absolutely what any reasonable person would consider a refugee fleeing from war or persecution,” he said.

So this idea they are all money-grabbing people is just rubbish. I got talking to a bunch of guys from Eritrea, from Sudan, from Libya, and these are guys who wanted to come to England. Not one of them had a clue about benefits. They wanted to come to the UK because the UK represents the good life. Not that it’s a bed of roses or it’s cushy; I mean a life where people aren’t shooting at you, where you can be free to worship where you want to worship.

“We don’t get fewer losers by pitting one group against others”

Talking about a 14 year old injured trying to make the crossing into the UK, Tim said:

So this is a situation where there aren’t any winners. But we don’t get fewer losers by pitting one group against others. And that 14 year-old lad’s suffering is of a greater order. The suffering he’s already seen and the suffering he continues to endure because he’s there without parents in a fairly scary place.

A fence is not the answer

What we’re dealing with is a quadrupling in recent years in the number of people who have become refugees,” Farron continued. “And you don’t deal with that by putting up a higher fence at Calais or our side of the channel. The answer to that is conflict prevention, it’s understanding that international development is not just morally right, it’s actually enlightened self interest because if you invest properly in countries and develop them then people will stay there.

On the UKIP MEP who scaled the fence in Calais

Farron said Hookem’s actions were not particularly helpful. “What he can’t replicate is the desperation to do it,” he said. “What he can’t replicate is seeing your neighbors murdered in front of you, having to move your kids from what was a stable and happy place to a massively risky journey across the Mediterranean and maybe seeing a member of your family die on the way.

All very practical, and sensitive to the ordeal that these people have been suffering not just at Calais, but in having to flee the dangers of their homeland.

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10 Comments

  • You also need to read the comments below the Buzzfeed article. They are the kind of ‘real world’ comments that you will never find here on LDV, due to its ‘brick wall’ moderation approach.
    And if you do take the trouble to read the comments at Buzzfeed, you’ll find that Tim is coming across as some kind of Quaker preacher, that the leader of a serious political party?

  • Peter Bancroft 7th Aug '15 - 3:54pm

    I think that the idea that the leader of a serious political party would alter their behaviour to appeal to Buzzfeed commentators is the more ridiculous idea.

  • So is Tim Farron saying that all that want to settle in the UK should be allowed to?

  • David Evershed 8th Aug '15 - 1:38am

    Tim said “The significant majority in the camp are, according to the French authorities and doctors, absolutely what any reasonable person would consider a refugee fleeing from war or persecution,”

    This suggests that they are fleeing from France to the UK in order to escape war or persecution. I know the French are our old enemy but are they really that bad?

  • @Peter Bancroft one of the most astute comments on that thread stated simply that you can have a Welfare State or you can have open borders, but you can’t have both.

  • So Tim Farron, exactly what are you proposing as a solution to the problem of people trying to illegally enter the UK? Meeting them, shaking hands and commiserating with them is all very well but does not solve a serious problem.

    I am travelling back to the UK at the end of September using the Channel Tunnel and am somewhat nervous about the situation at Calais. The ‘refugees’ are getting increasingly desperate and violent. Their frustration might be entirely understandable but how can they (and the people of Calais) be helped – a sustainable solution needs to be found.

  • “What we’re dealing with is a quadrupling in recent years in the number of people who have become refugees,” Farron continued. “And you don’t deal with that by putting up a higher fence at Calais or our side of the channel. The answer to that is conflict prevention, it’s understanding that international development is not just morally right, it’s actually enlightened self interest because if you invest properly in countries and develop them then people will stay there.”

    A poster on here called Richard S (sorry forgotten the rest of his surname) has an alternative viewpoint based on his real-life experiences as a customs officer. Would give genuine refugees be camping in Calais when they could be settled on their first port of call , usually in Italy? It’s no good Tim having photo-ops in Calais if he cannot suggest a constructive way forward to deal with the situation which is getting worse by the day. It’s no good saying ‘conflict prevention’ and ‘international aid’ . We’ve had international aid for decades but still the problem continues. And how are we supposed to get involved in the affairs of other nations to ‘prevent conflict’ ? I’m sorry but what Tim is saying (whilstI agree that people would stay in their own countries if their conditions were tolerable) is just pie-in-the-sky. We need a bigger vision and better practical solutions than that.

  • Richard Underhill 8th Aug '15 - 7:36pm

    David Evershed Tim said “The significant majority in the camp are, according to the French authorities and doctors, absolutely what any reasonable person would consider a refugee fleeing from war or persecution,”
    Therefore it is implied that the 1951 UN Convention relating to the staus of refugees should be extended.
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200001/ldjudgmt/jd001219/adan-1.htm.
    There may be another reason to choose the UK, if a relative is already here, albeit without leave to enter or remain as an overstayer, illegal entrant or failed asylum seeker.

  • David Allen 9th Aug '15 - 6:16pm

    I don’t support open borders. However, Germany and Sweden have accepted hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers this year while Britain has accepted a tiny fraction. Meanwhile, about 3000 asylum seekers have rocked up at Calais declaring that having made it into the EU, Britain rather than France or Italy / Greece is wher they would personally like to be. Why don’t we just take those 3000, accept that they are part of a reasonable share of the EU burden, and re-open Kent for normal business?

  • Katerina Porter 11th Aug '15 - 8:40pm

    David so glad you said that. Apparently a lot of them speak English and that is why it seems a better destination.
    What sort of people are we, when the Turks have taken a million and Jordan half a million. These are refugees!

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