On 4 August 2015, Dimitris Avramopoulos, Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner in Brussels, issued a statement showing simultaneously the EU’s impotence and arrogance in seeking to push its own agenda on the back of the suffering of British lorry drivers and migrants in Calais.
Avramopoulos noted “the strong cooperation” between the UK and France, and outlined what the EU was able to do in way of assistance. This included processing asylum applications and registering migrants, as well as helping them return to their country of origin. However, he had to acknowledge that “neither France nor the UK have requested additional assistance”. In other words, he wasted Theresa May’s time when he demanded a meeting.
Frontex, the EU Borders Agency, can assist in helping to identify and register migrants – something national agencies do – and collaborate with “countries of origin…to speed up the issuing of travel documents for return”. Again, all actions carried out by national agencies. This agency stands out as a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Perhaps Frontex’s only use is in, as Avramopoulos stated, coordinating and financing “joint return operations”. Yet this too is duplication. Why are governments handing over taxpayers’ money to an organisation that does what their own authorities already do? Better resourced French authorities might have been able to process the migrants; instead France hands over a chunk of its money to the EU, which then hands on a smaller amount (after salaries for bureaucrats have been deducted) to Frontex, which then has an even smaller pot to carry out its activities after its own overheads have been covered.
Undeterred, Avramopoulos proudly announced that the Commission had granted the UK €27 million in pre-financing from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. Again, returning the UK’s own EU budget contributions back to it: only this time the UK will receive less back than what it would have had if it had not contributed in the first place.
If the EU had better borders, or more control over the internal movement of people, Calais would now be a functioning port. Many of the migrants have suffered much and should be given help: after all, 3000 people coming to the UK would be a drop in the ocean of the 480,000 immigrants legally let in from April 2013-2014. Yet something is clearly wrong when people fleeing a conflict in Libya are not seeking help in the nearest states to them, such as Egypt, Tunisia or Algeria, but instead finding the time and money to travel 2000 miles to the UK.
And then comes the plug for greater integration: “the situation in Calais is another stark example of the need for a greater level of solidarity.” The same solidarity, one presumes, in which Italian authorities encourage migrants to leave Italy, pushing them towards Britain and out of their way. When Avramopoulos states that the migrants are a “challenge that surpasses national boundaries”, he seems to forget that it is only because internal borders within the EU have been removed that the problem exists: something that, incidentally, facilitates and makes easier the trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation. Criminal groups now need only one weak spot to get their victims into Europe; previously, journeys would have faced numerous border obstacles.
Better use of aid and military power to create stable governments around the EU’s borders would reap massive benefits. Cameron is right to keep Britain’s aid budget up; but interventions to remove dictators like Gaddafi, and the foolish attempts to remove Assad, should be policies Britain returns to only ever with the utmost caution.
Consistently, the entire EU model is found wanting. Cameron is right to question it; but only real Treaty-level change will deliver the results that Britain – and, incidentally, the rest of Europe – needs.