Refugees and Sovereignty – Two birds with one stone

Taking back control of our borders was, for good or ill, a cornerstone of Brexit, fetishised by those who tell Johnson what to do. Where, though, should the border be for travellers to Sussex? In Newhaven? In Dieppe? 

To most, this question would seem ludicrous [even if the former’s port is ultimately owned by a French company] especially in the context of that other fetish, sovereignty. How can “our” border be over there? Just look at the gun emplacements in Newhaven Fort for history’s answer. “This sceptred isle” and all that. However, our immigration frontier with France is not here in Newhaven, but in Dieppe. 

What price sovereignty?

It all comes down to refugees. Prime Minister Johnson and his xenophobe mouthpiece at the Home Office will do everything they can to outsource our frontier to France, just to stop refugees setting foot on our hallowed turf. Johnson’s recent 5-point plan for dealing with refugees communicated to President Macron so crassly, was all about what France should do, in France, and not what “taking back control” would mean. How is it “taking back control” when you pay a foreign nation to keep travellers away from your country? What price sovereignty if you refuse even to operate an asylum registration system on your own shores? The notion of sovereignty – the right of those who rule a nation to make and change its laws – would seem to preclude begging favours of the neighbours, yet that is exactly what Johnson and Patel are doing when it comes to refugees.

This country used to take pride in its diversity and history with regard to welcoming others in need. Be it to Huguenots, Jews, Basque childrenUgandan Asians, people of this country have opened their arms. Today we are in a dark chapter, though. Xenophobes laughably claim the country is full and cannot take any more inward migration. Brexit was all about keeping foreigners from polluting the purity of the British way of life [which in reality is a rich melting pot of cultures]. However, successive Conservative governments, claiming to seek to control immigration, have presided over the highest net migration figures on record, failing to make any impact. Their preferred odious modus operandi has been to demonise for political reasons demographic groups who have contributed hugely to the UK’s economy and culture – Europeans and refugees – whilst leaving the doors wide open to myriad others every year. Now, hundreds of thousands of tax-paying Europeans have been lost to our work-force; and tens of thousands of willing workers are held at bay from fulfilling their potential whilst waiting for a creaking and hostile asylum process to let them work at all. 

Safe routes

Just a small minority of those millions around the world who in desperation seek sanctuary far from their homes arrive at the coast of Europe wanting to come to the UK to find safety, work, family members and a new life. Against all precedent and convention, they are not able to do so. Asylum can only be applied for in the destination that they cannot reach thanks to the UK frontier being rented outside our sovereign territory. This paradoxical policy not only keeps out those in need of sanctuary but, in a further irony, allows the UK government to blame France for mismanaging the very issue it refuses to face up to. It criticises France at the same time as begging it for help. As it weeps crocodile tears over deaths at sea of asylum seekers, driven to desperate measures to reach their place of safety, it refuses to enact the simplest and most decent of solutions to the problem: to create safe routes to this country.

It would be so much more humane, practical and economical to allow registration for asylum in French ports* and/or to issue temporary visas and ferry tickets enabling the immigration process to take place, as it should, on sovereign UK territory.

[*It should be perfectly possible for UK Immigration to handle asylum claims in French ports, though for how long French authorities would tolerate this while UK insults them publicly must be finite.] 

With such a solution there is no need for vulnerable people to risk to life and limb; no huge costs of ineffective border patrols; no market for criminal people traffickers; but there is proper and humane treatment of fellow human beings. This would be the action of a proud sovereign nation, taking responsibility for its own borders. 

Treatment of refugees is a national disgrace

Whether one supports the Brexit ideals of sovereignty and control of borders regained or not, surely having admission to the country on our own soil is unarguable. Or put it another way: having our frontier in France is a complete negation of both. To those of us for whom refugees deserve welcoming and respect, their current treatment is a national disgrace. To those who care about sovereignty having Dieppe as our frontier would be the same. Let’s solve both issues with a safe route to dear old Blighty.

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