The writer is a Labor MP for Wigan and shadow foreign secretary
Britain blames France. France blames Britain. But at least 27 people died, including two children. This is the worst, but not the only, incident of its kind since we began counting the dead in the canal seven years ago.
While Franco-British relations Slipping into a general war of words, focusing on symptoms rather than causes, little is being done to address the true drivers of this humanitarian crisis. The situation in the channel is just one aspect of the global challenge: a world 26 million refugeesDiffuse conflict, dysfunctional diplomacy, and populist politics.
In solidarity with the severe shortage of supply, countries have sought to outpace each other strange actions to deter the desperate. The European Union pushes countries to deport asylum seekers. Australia sends them to distant islands to be processed. The UK government has floated the idea of using wave machines to deter boats. To the astonishment of the politicians who devised these schemes, people are still on the move.
What should be done? First, we must make it a priority to focus, together, on the unresolved conflicts and chronic instability that is blighting so much of the world. Major long-running conflicts have been put into the “very hard” box, while the United Nations struggles to raise the funds needed to maintain even basic humanitarian programmes. The main countries of origin of those arriving in Europe have all experienced recent or ongoing conflicts – countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan, whose aid the UK recently reduced.
As long as the world is unable to cooperate to resolve these conflicts – such as the Syrian war, which is now longer than the two world wars combined – people will continue to move. Meanwhile, climate change will exacerbate and create new situations, as water and food become scarce in parts of the world that are heating up faster. Without action from all governments, everywhere, millions will be forced to relocate.
Second, we need to work together on a plan to get help to the areas most affected by the movement of people. During the recent evacuation to Afghanistan, while we were trying to create safe routes out of the country, many Afghans headed to the border with Pakistan. But, as the Pakistani government explained to me, the country faced a difficult epidemic, with limited access to vaccines. While the government of Boris Johnson was asking them to add more to 1.4 million refugees Already in the country, he was also cutting the UK aid to pakistan.
We must not forget that 85 percent of refugees are hosted in developing countries. Leaving people languishing in refugee camps for decades creates the conditions in which they are willing to bet everything, even life itself, on a decent future.
Third, as Labor urged, the UK should open up Safe and legal methods Which would undermine the people smugglers who make so much money out of desperation – we should encourage other countries to do the same. On Thursday’s makeshift boat, which arrived in Dover, was an Afghan soldier who had lost any hope of opening safe and legal routes. Three full months after the prime minister promised to “move heaven and earth” to help Afghans who are at risk because of their support for Britain, the Afghan resettlement scheme has not even been opened.
The status quo benefits only two groups: people smugglers and populist politicians around the world who have no interest in cooperating to solve the large and complex problems of conflict, persecution and climate change. But while they refuse, the world is suffering the consequences of war, climate change, mass displacement of people, and the horror of children drowning on our shores. As long as the blame game continues, so will human misery, chaos, and despair. They will only get away with it as long as we allow them to.