The tide of humanity that we saw crossing the Mediterranean earlier has now reached Calais. In reality, it was already there long ago: the problem is not new, even if its effects on commerce and travel, are more intense.
It is outrageous to see repeated criminal damage go unpunished, and illegal attempts to breach the UK border with impunity, in addition to burden being placed on haulage companies and others. Security and deterrence need to meet the severity of the situation.
Whether we prefer to call it a tide or a swarm, or whatever, we fool ourselves if we think it will abate. On the contrary, there is every indication that it will intensify.
Last week I visited Syrian refugees encamped in the Beqaa valley in Lebanon. I spoke to one Lebanese mayor whose town is now dwarfed by the refugees camped around it. For many of them this is their 4th year since fleeing home, their savings are exhausted. The World Food Programme has announced the withdrawal of assistance due to insufficient donor funds. So, there will be an even more powerful attraction for those who are able, to make the journey to Europe for a new life. Add to them hundreds of thousands from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Nigeria, the Sahel, South Sudan, Yemen, and any number of others.
Given the size of the problem, it is absurd to criticise the UK for not taking a few thousand more, when it is measured in millions, and growing.
The only serious long term strategy is the one in which we are leading: spending large sums investing in stability, humanity, and prosperity, in the regions from which they are fleeing.
When I was asked how many Syrian refugees we had given asylum to, I could have put a number to the several thousand which we have, but I preferred to point out that we have committed £900 Million to dealing with their needs in the region.
UK is alone in meeting NATO’s 2% target for military expenditure AND the UN 0.7% target on international aid. It is time the others caught up.