JournalismPakistan.com July 1, 2015
Chaos in Calais is the phrase that comes to mind. That is followed by a surreal series of images showing an eclectic multinational mob taking advantage of the ferry strike to hitch a ride across the border to Britain or use the several mile long tailbacks as cover to smuggle themselves in.
The two days of ‘carnage’ last week as it has been described with riot police in full gear cracking down on over 4000 illegals from countries as diverse as Sudan, Afghanistan and Pakistan is an acrid commentary on the global refugee problem. The level of frustration in these camps more akin to prisoner of war facilities (if one can adopt that word) finally reaches boiling it. And what has happened at Calais is a symptom of the have-have not equation.
While the humanitarian aspect is a major factor much of it gets damned into mush because the detention areas and the long time create a poisonous bottleneck of its own.
The free for all this week as illegals tried to get into vans and lorries and snaking queues of vehicles reflects an exhaustion with waiting.
Never have so many people been without a country and though Europe has allowed them to find some refuge the paradox is that the texture of the help offered tends to compound the problem.
So whether it is boat people by the thousands or the refugee influx from war torn regions where conflict is the norm rather than the rarity this flow of humanity collides with the dam formed by bureaucratic bumbling and public resistance. The presence of total strangers creating a ghetto is disturbing and we cannot get away from that fact.
So then, what is the solution? Quotas do not help. And the business of smuggling human beings is a lucrative one almost catching up with narcotics. If they die on the way, so be it, the risk is theirs and no charges of manslaughter are ever leveled on the traffickers.
If the mayor of Calais has expressed despair at the city becoming a jumping off point he is not being hard hearted, only practical. Every day 40 odd people manage to get into Britain mostly as stowaways on ferries and huge trucks. Checkpoints can only do so much. As high as 15000 people were caught in 2014 making the ‘crossing.’
If quotas do not help and governments are afraid of annoying their citizenry and there is no UN charter that actually can handle the global influx there is clearly no answer and we do face the possibility of a world where such people will increase in number and increase exponentially.
Ironically, immigration laws will tighten, racial stereotyping will become common and border patrols that much more ruthless.
And the people will keep coming.
As James Baldwin said:
Never seen the like since I been born,
The people keep coming
And the train’s long gone.
(The writer is a Senior Editorial Advisor of Khaleej Times and the paper’s former Editor. He has also been the Editor of Gulf News, Gulf Today, Emirates Today and Bahrain Tribune)
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