Migrant crossings: Facing the UK’s inconvenient truths and convenient lies

The debate around migration is increasingly moving beyond logic - the facts no longer speak for themselves.

For the last 6 months, coronavirus has dominated the headlines, save for the brief Madeleine McCann updates. \

However, last week the cameras pointed seaward from Dover at the small boats making the perilous journey across the channel. In the media frenzy, the truth can get quickly swept aside. So here’s a little reality check. By Michael Delaney.

Why are they making the crossing?

Despite what you may have heard, the motive is not Universal Credit. The answer is what they are running from, not what they are running to.

Many are refugees seeking asylum.

The main countries that people gathering in northern France are fleeing include Eritrea, Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Yemen. They are the legacy of over a decade of failed foreign policy and the booming business that war creates.

The decision is simple – a better life awaits you if you’re willing to risk your life to get there.

How do they get there?

Attempts to stop migrants from making the journey has given way to a whole market of people smugglers.

Some people pay thousands for their spot on the crowded vessels, selling their possessions to raise the funds.

Journeying through one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world is dangerous enough as it is. Scenes from last week show passengers on the boats bailing out the water from inside their boat in a desperate attempt to make it to shore.

Reports also suggest that it is also possible to purchase a small canoe and paddle the 20 mile stretch.

But why the UK and not stay in France or even Germany?

This one’s a four part answer.

1. Relatives – in some cases, asylum seekers will have relatives already in the UK. I’m sure we’d like to think that if we needed a helping hand, staying with a relative for a short time would be a viable option to help dust ourselves down. The next three probably answer why their relatives came…

2. Language – British imperialism and culture have permeated throughout the world. This is a blessing for a Brit abroad who wouldn’t have the first clue how to speak the native language. But the flip side means many migrants can speak some English – helps to speak the language if you’re trying to restart your life.

3. Healthcare – In places like France and Germany, healthcare and other benefits can be more difficult to access without proper documentation. If you’d escaped war-torn poverty and trekked the breadth of Europe, huddled against the freezing sea spray, you may also like to see a doctor.

4. Jobs – Job prospects in the UK are viewed as being relatively available, or at least the rules for getting a job are more relaxed than places like Germany. Failure to properly regulate exploitative workplaces has made front pages this year already with BooHoo running a factory in Leicester, where workers were paid less than the minimum wage, many of whom were migrants.

And benefits aren’t really a competing factor either. Comparisons are tricky, but 2015 figures have the weekly allowance for asylum seekers in the UK as 7th behind Norway, Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal, France and Germany.

Don’t they have a negative impact on the country, though?

Again, no.

In fact, the available, reliable evidence we have to hand disproves this, as published by the Home Office in 2018.

Interestingly, however, a survey conducted by Ipsos MORI found that Britons think around a quarter of the population are immigrants, when it’s actually half that, at around 13 per cent. And they think immigration from EU countries is nearly three times the actual level of 6 per cent.

This distortion of facts may go some way to explaining why images of boats in the channel generate such outrage.

Summer is no longer silly season

The summer months used to be an oddly quiet time in the news cycle. Yet in the last few years the word ‘crisis’ has been plastered across front pages in relation to the opportunities and efforts of smugglers to sail across the calmer seas.

Despite the facts about migration, we seem ready to send in the Royal Navy to blockade the small flotilla of dinghies – but at what cost to the tax payer?

The debate around migration is increasingly moving beyond logic – the facts no longer speak for themselves. Instead we are in the age of the “Breaking Point” poster and squaring up fully gunned frigates against desperate families fleeing war.

Here, the inconvenient truth is the “migrant crisis” is simply a convenient lie.