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Brussels and The Hague must stop ignoring Calais situation

6 August 2017

Brussels and The Hague must stop ignoring Calais situation

In June the first death occurred, when a Polish truckdriver crashed into a row of lorries which had to stop suddenly because some migrants had blocked the road with a tree trunk. Truck drivers are still going to Great Britain, but for how long? Once again a time is fast approaching when it will be too late to act, and yet once again the European Union decision-makers in Brussels, and the Dutch government in The Hague, remain worryingly quiet, while the government in Paris blunders on. In the Netherlands we have started a petition calling for safe parking places and protection of the roads leading into Calais. Beyond that, I want to see action from the European Commission and the Dutch government. Our drivers deserve better.

The European Commission has money available to create protected lorry parks. The roads into Calais should be prioritised for this money, while the French police could be giving far more protection to road haulage drivers than they are doing, for how otherwise could migrants continue to gain access to motorways and set up barricades on them? For its part the Dutch government could at the very least bring the Dutch drivers’ concerns to the attention of their counterparts in Paris and demand that they take action. As things stand the drivers are still going to Britain via Calais, but it is unreasonable to expect them to do so under these conditions.

At the core of the problem is the lack of an effective policy from either France or the EU as a whole for how to deal with people without valid residence documents. France admits that not only in Calais but in Paris and elsewhere, undocumented migrants are building their own rude shelters or sleeping in the street. Only when the problem gets out of hand do the French authorities take action.

At the European level too the return of people to their countries of origin who do not qualify for residence and so have no valid documents is the Achilles’ heel of immigration policy. You can’t simply keep people locked up indefinitely, which is why it’s a good thing that the EU directive on the matter states that you can deprive migrants of their freedom only if and when there is a real prospect of being able to deport them. The problem is that deportation is never that simple. There are quite a lot of countries who refuse to cooperate with the return of their citizen, while of course the migrants themselves are rarely willing to go back. Only if it can be shown that their journey has not been a total waste, for example by offering them financial or other forms of aid, are they prepared voluntarily to return; but that’s unfair to those who stay in their own countries despite living in conditions equally unenviable.

There are no simple solutions. The EU is attempting to put the countries of origin under pressure, applying sanctions to states which fail to cooperate and offering aid to those which do comply. There are problems with this too, if only because the authorities in many of these countries are riddled with corruption and very keen to receive financial aid, while it’s far from certain that such aid will be put to good use. Yet neither can we allow people who have no grounds to be considered for a residence permit to roam endlessly around Europe. In the final analysis that would not be in anyone’s interest. That’s why I support the development of a clear policy in relation to countries of origin, while in the meantime I’m demanding the speedy adoption of measures to guarantee the safety of our drivers.

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