The news has been dominated in the last few weeks by images of migrants in Calais attempting to break down barriers and climb aboard trucks and trains coming through the Eurotunnel to what they believe is a better life in the United Kingdom. The danger to these desperate people was highlighted this week when one man was killed attempting to climb aboard a lorry bound for Britain.
Meanwhile on both sides of the channel fingers are pointing at one another over who is to blame. British politicians have accused their French counterparts of having an open door policy for migrants travelling through France to the UK which has caused the current situation. French politicians however accuse Britain of effectively leaving France to deal with what is essentially a British problem and that London should be more involved in protecting the channel.
Earlier this week the leader of the UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage, echoed calls on the British side of the channel for British security forces to have more involvement in protecting the tunnel from the migrants including using the armed forces to shore up numbers of personnel;
If in a crisis to make sure we’ve actually got the manpower to check lorries coming in to stop people illegally coming to Britain if in those circumstances we can use the army or other forces then why not?
While Nigel Farage is known for his anti-EU rhetoric his opinion has strong support from all aspects of British politics.
So should the army be deployed to protect the entrance to the tunnel in France?
- The migrant situation in Calais is a direct threat to the British economy with millions of pounds being lost in trade due to delays and disruption of freight trains and lorries.
- The migrants have shown that they are willing to resort to violence in some cases and this has prompted truck drivers to arm themselves with whatever they can to protect themselves. Caught up in the middle of this potential powder keg are hundreds of British tourists and businessmen travelling through the tunnel. When British civilians were at risk in the “Arab Spring” the armed forces deployed to protect them then so why not now?
- The local government in Calais has admitted that they lack the resources to handle the situation.
- There is a risk that extremists and terrorists can mingle within the migrants and make their way inside Britain’s security network to attack civilian, political and military targets.
- Despite the shocking images of migrants breaking down barriers to get at trains and lorries bound for the UK there has not been any large scale breakout of migrants in to the UK via the tunnel. With many thousands of migrants attempting to get through everyday 140 have actually made it through this week that have been intercepted on the UK side.
- Although the tunnel provides access to the United Kingdom the entrance is still on French soil and therefore is a French security issue.
- Has the public perception of the situation been tainted by the media’s portrayal? Is the situation really that much of a threat to the British economy and safety of British citizens that we are considering using the army?
- With dwindling numbers of the armed forces can the army afford to have a deployment in France to control a situation and maintain its other world wide commitments?
- Stopping the migrants from entering the UK illegally does not address the situation and will undoubtedly increase tensions between London and Paris as the number of migrants swell in Calais.
- Just what would be the “rules of engagement” for British troops in France? Would French authorities allow them to be armed? What would be the French legal position on British forces exercising authority on French soil?
There is no easy answer to the problem but one thing is for sure; the current situation is going to get worse unless both the French and the British governments agree to work on a common plan of action to address the situation not just in Calais but in Europe at large with thousands more migrants making their way across the Mediterranean every month.