Helen Martin: We must act now to stem the migrant tide

Migrant women and children sleeping on the deck of a French rescue boat in the Med. Picture: Getty
Migrant women and children sleeping on the deck of a French rescue boat in the Med. Picture: Getty
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WHEN the EU migrant crisis began in 2015, sympathy and compassion was the priority for host governments and their people.

Despite the economic difficulties that clouded the UK and Europe being increased even more by the volume of refugees and asylum seekers, a welcome for people who feared for their lives so desperately that they risked death by crossing oceans in small, overcrowded boats was moral and kind.

But what wasn’t clear and understood at the time, was that opening the doors wouldn’t be an emergency measure to save lives within a limited time frame. It would change the world and sweep aside national policies governing immigration and budget plans, and local policies in terms of housing shortages, social work and educational capacity.

The volume of migrants was so high it was too much for countries to deal with in terms of normal asylum procedures. While many would have had every right to appeal for asylum, it was obvious from media coverage that many were not fleeing from danger but seeking a more affluent lifestyle.

Hordes of well-dressed single men with smartphones and angry behaviour, rather than worn-out, worn-down families trying to save their children, dominated in numbers. Now we have reports of haulage firms having to avoid French ports because their drivers are threatened and attacked by armed migrants, as well as reports of migrants robbing and assaulting women in host countries.

Currently Europe is in a dreadful position. Immigration has become limitless and indiscriminate without means of accepting those entitled to asylum while rejecting those who smuggle their way in and use violence to get to their favourite destination.

If it wasn’t for the tortured, miserable and hellish Brexit negotiations, Europe should have by now got together to figure out how to deal with millions who are illegally in the EU, and millions who have been expelled with asylum refused but have simply gone to ground rather than returning home. Migration is now out of control and never-ending, opening the gates to baddies as well as vulnerable innocents, with no countries and governments, except Italy, having the courage to go “against the grain” by closing its doors and sticking to a no entry policy.

It’s a difficult balance. Is it cruel, irresponsible and unethical to do “the Italian job”? Or is that now the only possible means of stemming the migrant flow?

Can anyone come up with a process and system which differentiates between genuine asylum seekers with a strong chance of being accepted and those who are only in it for the money? Could migrants make it to a safe base in Africa funded by Europe, the US and any other potential hosts who could approve or reject asylum there with travel documents issued, cutting smugglers out of the loop? Perhaps none of that is possible but specialist charities, politicians and international lawyers could surely come up with some better plan than the existing chaos. The alternative is that the migrant crisis never stops, numbers continue to grow, genuine refugees die on smuggler ships, ports – especially those in northern France – become hell holes, and struggling economies face even more burdens.

It’s a moral dilemma, but one that needs to be discussed candidly without accusations of hard hearts, constrained compassion or political incorrectness.

Edward needs his wings clipped

PRINCE Edward was criticised by anti-monarchy campaign group Republic last week after attending two engagements, each less than 150 miles from his Surrey home, by means of a private Cessna jet costing the public purse £10,000. A train ticket would have cost him £210.

To be fair to “our Eddie”, security would have required him to have a private carriage accommodating him and his retinue and body guards, not to mention chauffeur-driven limos to and from the stations. He could hardly stand alone in a commuter queue on the platforms and hitchhike to his royal gigs.

Then again, he could have asked mum if he could borrow her personal helicopter.

Republic does have a point though. Surely a journey that short doesn’t require a private jet at such expense. The royals are modernising. Displaying more effort to save public money would go down well.

Tablet cure?

MEDICAL and educational campaigns to limit kids’ addiction to screens and social media should be extended to older age groups. I’ve challenged Himself (65) to ban his smart phone, iPad and PC for 24 hours. They may require surgical removal. Watch this space.