I rather regret having written to the BBC asking them to properly enforce their own rules when dealing with their highest paid presenter, Gary Lineker.
My inbox so quickly filled with emails denouncing his ‘tweets’ and supporting the policy that he had criticised, that I soon realised how effective he was at marshalling support for the Government’s policy. So, long may he continue to ‘tweet unrestrained’.
On the policy itself, I entirely support it. But we fool ourselves if we think we can stop the boats without the enthusiastic co-operation of France. Currently, French intervention stops about a third of crossings. If, by increasing our financial contribution, we can get them to significantly raise their game, then we will have got ourselves a bargain compared to the ever-increasing costs of dealing with those who make it to our shores.
We need to keep in mind that this is an international problem to which international solutions have to be found. France is having as much difficulty at its own border with Italy as we are having with the Channel. Already this year 20,000 migrants have arrived in boats on the Italian mainland.
Of course, Europe has to find ways of protecting its borders and I am confident that they will increasingly start to embrace the policies that the UK is now adopting. Ultimately however, we must tackle the problem at source: the conditions that are driving mass migrations in the first place.
When I was the Minister for International Development, I recall visiting the largest refugee camp in the world. The UNHCR had provided housing well above the standard available in so many settlements in developing middle-income countries. The world Food Programme provided clean water and enough to eat. UNICEF was educating the Children. The host country’s police and army ensured a level of order and security uncommon elsewhere.
On balance, the refugees were getting a level of support that would be difficult to match in much of the world.
Nevertheless, there was a significant flow of refugees leaving and risking all that they had to pay gangsters to traffic them elsewhere, in pursuit of the one thing that that refugee camp could not provide: a livelihood.
If we are to have a prospect of solving migration we need to invest in providing the opportunity of earning a living in those parts of the world where that prospect is remote. As I kept saying to anyone who would listen, “it’s all about jobs”.
50 years ago, the rich nations pledged to invest 0.7 % of their national incomes in the poorer developing world. Most have never honoured that pledge at all. It took us the UK until 2011 to reach that pledge, but it only lasted until 2019. If all the wealthy nations had honoured their pledge when they made it, then perhaps we would not be having to cope with the current levels of migration that are overwhelming us.