Border Security – 8th July 2015
The Royal Navy`s capital ship HMS Bulwark has, during the past few weeks, rescued very many hundreds of people-trafficked migrants from unsafe and overcrowded boats trying to cross the Mediterranean and, having saved their lives, has put them ashore. Many, no doubt, have already headed straight across Europe, through France and have arrived in Calais where, while seeking to stow away on cross-channel lorries, they are living in a makeshift shanty-city. They have brought the port of Calais to a grinding halt and, over the weekend, have stormed the entrance to the Channel Tunnel causing still further delay to the trucks full of in some cases perishable goods stacked and waiting, some for days already, to make the crossing in both directions.
The Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, the MP Keith Vaz, seemed surprised, upon visiting Calais last Saturday, to discover that after a modest reduction in cross-channel aspirants the figures had spiked again. He believes, understandably, that the `mafias` across Europe and the Middle East profiteering from this trade in human misery, must be brought to book. Others have said that we must `break the link` between asylum and the boats that deliver them to the southern shores of the Mediterranean.
Xavier Bertrand, a former French employment Minister, blames the migrant problem on the United Kingdom`s black economy, an French journalist, interviewed on BBC Radio Four, said “you are not helping enough – where`s the money”? and Madame Natacha Bouchard, the Mayor of Calais, would like the problem of illegal immigrants transferred to Dover because, she says, it is the British benefits system that is the draw and the source of the difficulties that her Town is facing. Meanwhile, hundreds of illegal stowaways are being removed from the trucks in which they have tried to conceal themselves on a daily basis.
Set aside, for the moment, the fact that it is the French, along with the Germans and, of course, the Polish Government, who believe that Freedom of Movement is sacrosanct and that European jobseekers must be entitled to benefits in the Country in which they have chosen to live without having, first, contributed to that country`s economy. Nobody in Northern France seems prepared to point a finger towards Paris rather than towards London and to recognise that it is their own Government, and not ours, that has abandoned border controls. And yet how else would it be so simple for the tide of economic migrants to flow seamlessly across the European mainland towards the North Coast of France?
The Schengen agreement, originally signed in 1985 by five (France, Belgium, West Germany, Luxembourg and The Netherlands) of the then ten member States of the European Economic Community , set what is now the EU on a borderless path. The Schengen Convention, subsequently abolished border controls and introduced a common visa policy. It now embraces twenty-six countries and as a result some 400 million people can move freely without any border checks on passports once they are inside the zone. That freedom extends, incredibly, to French tropical outposts such as Martinique. When the French sought, in 2011, to impose border controls upon illegal immigrants arriving from Italy the European Commission ruled that France was, under the terms of the Schengen Convention, acting illegally. So once in, the Eurozone is your oyster!
Britain, exceptionally and wisely, retained as part of our island status, an opt-out and our own border inspection points which is why, when you travel between Britain and France by ferry or by train you pass through not one but two (French and English) frontier control points. It is by no means perfect. We know about the illegal immigrants that our Border Force apprehends but we have no real, idea, of course, of how many get through the net. What is certain, though, is that our independence has at least limited illegal entry into the United Kingdom.
Schengen has made a nonsense of a Free Trade initiative designed to allow people to move freely and to seek and gain employment throughout the European Economic Community – the “Common Market” that many of us thought that we were signing up to when we last voted in a referendum about our membership of `Europe`. Freedom of movement was never intended to allow all-comers from all places to take advantage of benefit, health and other systems to which they have not contributed one centime through taxation and, in today`s unstable and dangerous climate the prospect of the free movement of terrorists is, of course, particularly alarming.
So, instead of seeking to blame Britain for the twin woes of uncontrolled and illegal people-trafficking and the threat of the introduction of those who wish the Nations of Western Europe harm, and instead of preaching a Euro-gospel of `ever closer union` that is no longer fit for purpose, might it not be a good idea for the Schengen counties to tear up the Convention and to re-establish the security of border checks and controls? Is not our safety and our collective right to sovereignty worth just a little inconvenience as we move from Member State to Member State?
Just a thought.