by Martin Odoni

This week’s tragedy in the English Channel has once again brought the ongoing refugee crisis back into the news. It is the problem across Europe that everyone has gotten so used to that most of us have quite ceased to be concerned about whether it is solved. Paradoxically, the only ones who remain concerned – for all the worst reasons – are the far right. They remain awake at night in their beds, convinced a handful of brown persons are about to detonate the country in a series of suicide bombings. Therefore they want the refugees just to go away.

For the rest of us, perhaps to our shame, perhaps just because there are too many other horrible things going on for us to keep processing everything, the refugees have rather faded into the background. They remain in France and Germany, some of them now emerging as a second generation, and still largely contained in refugee camps. Those camps were never exactly what you would call, “Fit-for-human-habitation,” to start with, and now after years of permanent use, and the huge damage of the Covid-19 pandemic, they are filth-ridden death-traps. It can hardly be a wonder that so many of the refugees wish to escape them.

Our cowardly Government panders to myopic racism

One answer refugees hope for is that they can get to the UK. But with the present Government once more pandering to xenophobic and racist paranoia in its support base, it is incredibly difficult for refugees to make the crossing without resorting to underhand means. There is no official crossing service provided to refugees. People-traffickers are their only option a lot of the time, and people-traffickers are not subject to Health & Safety standards in the facilities they provide.

So when the dinghy overturned in the Channel this week, it was harrowing news, but not surprising. It was sure to happen eventually, for as long as the UK Government, in its heartlessness, refuses to allow an official route.

It truly horrified me to see right wingers on social media actually laughing at the news. I bet a lot of these smug I’m-all-right-Jacks are the same people who angrily retort that “All lives matter!!!” whenever they hear the chant of “Black lives matter.” All lives, it seems, except brown ones. These right wingers can sometimes disguise their maliciousness somewhat by insisting that the crossing is too dangerous, and that is why they want the refugees stopped. Why then, do these manifold S*n, Daily Mail and Daily Express readers not support calls for an official refugee route to be opened by the UK Government?

Sometimes heartless and brainless are on the same side

As much as this ruthless cruelty is heartless though, it is also brainless. It seems that the right wing are too foolish to realise that the reasons to let the refugees come in safely are not just bleeding heart liberalism, they are in fact good self-interest too.

The coastguard and the lifeboat services have been getting a lot of grief from ignorant xenophobes, dog-whistled by Nigel Farage and the manipulative con-artist ‘gammons’ at GB News. The right want the maritime rescuers just to ignore the dinghies and let those on board drown. The unthinking stupidity in this attitude should be obvious though.

At least some Britons have the right idea

Quite simply, when the coastguard or the RNLI intercept a dinghy and bring it safely to the UK shore, they will do so by guiding it into a port. They will then shepherd the passengers through customs, where their every move can be tracked, and tabs can be kept on them.

If the coastguard just ignores a dinghy full of refugees on the other hand, well, what do the gammon brigade think will happen? Quite simply, they will be free to land on the UK coast anyway. But also, more importantly, it will be anywhere on the UK coast. It depends on how you make the calculation, but the UK coast is considered to be roughly 12,400km. That is an awful lot of shoreline to patrol, way more than the modest-sized British maritime services can realistically hope to cover. The dinghy will get through, it will land wherever its ‘captain’ wishes, bypassing customs, and lo and behold, you have created a boat full of illegal immigrants. Precisely what the right insist they object to.

Sailing is not illegal

Also please note, no one ever commits a crime just by putting to sea. That, and the fact that there is so much coastline to patrol, is why the French are powerless to stop the dinghies launching. Worse, if they managed to stop the launches near Calais, the traffickers would simply move further west and attempt the crossing where the Channel is far wider, making it more dangerous.

British attempts to foist blame onto France for the tragedy are deceitful.

Prohibition should have taught us that this would not work

Prohibition of alcohol in the USA in the 1920s created only a Black Market, enriching and empowering organised crime, and people still kept drinking anyway as they bought in smuggled alcohol. It works the same with trying to shut down immigration. It just is not going to work because no border can be shut that way. (Look at the laughable failure of Donald Trump’s idiotic wall.) All you do by closing official avenues to travel across the Channel is hand wealth and power to people-traffickers, while the immigrants or refugees still make it into the country, but unsupervised by the authorities.

Or on occasion, you end up with nearly thirty victims of drowning.

Knee-jerk reactionism has dominated the decision-making scene in Britain for too long, and see where it is getting us.