by Gerard Swinley, a British second year student reading BA International Relations at the War Studies Department of King’s College London.
Sunday the 26th July 2015. Burger king or Starbucks? A difficult choice. A succulent burger or a refreshing coffee? In the end I decide I’m not hungry. At the Eurotunnel Calais terminal, there are hundreds of British families waiting to board the train and return to the UK. Faces have been tanned and the atmosphere is lively after a sunny European holiday.
Outside the terminal, the atmosphere is very different; it is raining heavily and the temperature barely reaches 14 degrees. Past the terminal’s carpark, it is eerily quiet. Not a single migrant can be seen. This is perhaps unsurprising considering the heavy rain and intimidating barbed wire fences which now surround the tunnel complex. As we near the train carriages, look closer, and evidence of migrant activity begins to appear; a thick coat on top of a massive barbed wire fence has flattened the wire and created a crossing. Several large French police vehicles, filled with anxious looking officers, patrol the fields in the surrounding area. These are the only signs of the thousands of migrants that are living just a few miles away, in the migrant camp known as “the jungle”, Calais’s very own shanty town.
I was incredibly lucky. Less than 24hrs after boarding the train, an estimated 2000 migrants stormed the tunnel. Fences were damaged and services were disrupted. A day later, another 1500 migrants attempted to enter the tunnel and reach Britain, one Sudanese man was killed in the attempt. This year alone, 9 people have died trying to reach Britain via the Eurotunnel and this figure is only expected to increase.
This week, David Cameron has pledged an extra £7m of funding in a joint effort with France to enhance security around Calais. Most of the money is expected to be spent on more fencing. Yet as Calais’s deputy major, Emmanuel Agius, highlighted, more fencing is not likely to deter or prevent the thousands of migrants who attempt the crossing daily. Instead, more fencing will likely only injure more people andpotentially lead to more deaths. Migrants who are willing to risk life and limb for a chance of reaching Britain will not be stopped by a large docile fence, however intimidating.
The British government’s policy in Calais is clearly not working. Unless Britain and France accept greater responsibility for these migrants this problem looks set to continue. Some members of the British public question why taxpayer’s money is being spent on French soil. Similarly, many French feel that as the migrants are trying to enter the UK, it is something the British need to deal with. In reality, it is a collective European problem. Calais is just one of a number of places in Europe effected by an influx of migrants. Other examples include Lesovo in Bulgaria and off the shores of Italy and Greece.
Europe must rise to the challenge of ensuring that this new wave of migration is efficiency managed and dealt with as a European problem not as simply a British, French, Italian or Bulgarian problem. The issue is currently being exacerbated by the concentration of migrants in a few small areas within several countries. Although some effort has been made to try and ensure migrants are dispersed throughout the different members of the European Union, so far the policy has proved unpopular. Only when European leaders realise that a problem shared is a problem halved, will progress be made.