Alan Duncan: Global movement of people will be one of our greatest pressures

MPs voted in favour of recognising Palestine as a state after a House of Commons debate last month EMN-141030-122314001
MPs voted in favour of recognising Palestine as a state after a House of Commons debate last month EMN-141030-122314001

Over the past few weeks we have seen a lot of coverage of the migrant crisis in Calais.

It is shocking to see the footage of people illegally clambering onto or under lorries destined for the UK, risking death in the hope of making it through and disappearing into Britain once on the other side of the Channel.

The Government has taken swift action to do what we can, but the fundamental truth is that these migrants are congregating in France and so the solution must be a predominantly French one. Nevertheless, the Foreign Secretary confirmed this week that 100 more guards would be deployed at our Eurotunnel terminal and that we will continue to co-operate with the French authorities.

The impact on the southern counties, particularly Kent, has been considerable, with the M20 grinding to a halt as freight lorries are forced to park up during periods of disruption to the Channel crossing.

It has been clear for some time that the global movement of people – both legal and illegal - is going to be one of the greatest pressures facing western countries over the coming years. Britain’s economic growth has made it an ever greater pull for EU citizens seeking better paid work away from their home countries. Our popularity as a destination for legal migration is an inevitable consequence of our strengthening economy, particularly in comparison to many other European countries.

At the same time, the southern EU countries are literally the first port of call for the thousands of illegal migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. The scenes at Calais are the continuation of that illegal migration, as the impact of conflicts from the Middle East, North Africa and beyond spill over into Europe.

The Middle East in particular has seen an extraordinary displacement of people, with four million Syrian refugees having fled to neighbouring Arab countries, swelling the populations and creating enormous pressures on the host countries. Britain’s focus in the region has been on supporting the aid effort in those countries, allocating £900 million since 2012 to helping with the impact of the crisis in Syria. Similarly, conflict in Africa – combined with porous borders and weak government – has contributed to the scenes in the Mediterranean.

While we must understand the causes of this illegal migration, though, we must be firm in asserting our control over our own borders. We cannot accept everyone who wants to come here and it is not right that people should be able to make it into this country by cutting fences and climbing into the back of a lorry. As such, the Government has been clear that illegal immigrants who do make it across the Channel can expect to be deported.

As a country, we rightly show great compassion across the world through our aid programme. We cannot be expected, however, to permit the sort of illegal migration we have witnessed being attempted from Calais in recent weeks. And the Government has been clear that we will not.