26 November 2021 | OPINION

As the country finally begins to recognise the scale of the migrant crisis, the self-contained Left continue to consume themselves over arguments of ‘morality’. They must finally admit that unchecked, uncontrolled illegal immigration won’t work, and that part of the ongoing problem is their neglect of the people-smuggling gangs profiteering off vulnerable migrants.

I discussed recently how left-wing arguments on illegal immigration tend to centre around the need for ‘morality’ – the position that Britain should take a far more lenient approach to refugees, and that resistance to this immoral.

The fundamental flaw in this position, however, is that it oversimplifies an incredibly complex issue, which is often the case with many left-wing perspectives. Any argument for ‘morality’ is a quick and easy way to distinguish and demarcate between the ‘good’ and the ‘evil’ in the context of political discourse. The debate over illegal immigration is no different.

The migrant crisis is far more complicated than a quarrel over ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, morality versus immorality. By making this distinction, other factors are ignored, preventing any real progress in debate – and subsequently, a solution to the problem. This determination to dumb down the debate on the Channel crossings is totally unhelpful for everybody: the French, the British and also the migrants… apart from the abhorrent criminals responsible for facilitating the crossings.

Whilst the Left raise concern over ‘morality’ – and with it, no regard for border control – and the Right make demands for tighter policy, the problems remain without any real solution. Migrants continue to risk their lives to cross the Channel, and the exploitative smuggling gangs continue to profit.

Only now it seems, as the crisis intensifies greatly and 27 migrants drown off the coast of Calais, does attention only partly turn towards the smuggling gangs. And as the French and British governments say they are beginning to search for solutions, loud and agitating Opposition MPs make totally outrageous and unhelpful claims that get us nowhere nearer to tackling the problem.

Take Labour backbencher Nadia Whittome, for example. Certainly a very popular voice amongst younger people, she recently described smuggling gangs as a “symptom of the problem”. One would think that one who raises concern over the vulnerability of the migrants – and how susceptible they will be to exploitation – would be keen to examine the roots of the crisis, rather than dismiss them.

This position is dangerous; not only because it is dismissive of a huge political problem for Britain and France, but also because migrants continue to risk their lives to cross the Channel whilst we squabble over solutions and ignore the real element of ‘morality’ here. For, as I have discussed only recently, the real argument for ‘morality’ mostly lies in the prevention of the smuggling gangs’ operations – ‘breaking the business model’.

The smuggling gangs are a significant contributing factor to the increasing number of migrants travelling through Europe in order to get to Britain (alongside the migrants’ knowledge that the French will do nothing to stop them crossing the Channel and the British won’t stop them once they get here). For as long as the combined operations of French and British authorities fail to ‘break the business model’ of the gangs, and Opposition MPs continue to campaign to encourage uncounted illegal immigration, the problem will only continue – and escalate.

To suggest, as Nadia Whittome does, that people-smuggling and the exploitative profiteering off vulnerable people is but a “symptom” of the vulnerable people – because that is essentially what she is saying – is fundamentally regressive to the problem. It must be recognised that these gangs are a contributing factor and that, ultimately, the problem won’t go away unless the combined approach of French and British authorities works to dismantle the gangs in order to curb the crisis.

However, it would be unfair not to point out that wild claims for solutions are coming from all sides. Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay made the completely unhelpful suggestion for British troops to patrol French beaches. Not only is this wholly impractical and totally unrealistic, but the French would never agree to it anyway. They have already rejected the idea on the grounds of sovereignty, and quite understandably, but the message this would send to the French public would also be catastrophic for President Macron: the notion that he needs British intervention on his own land to tackle the problem. For this Tory MP to put forward the idea is just an unnecessary obstruction to the process of finding viable, realistic solutions based on consensus.

It is time that we cease to involve ourselves in arguments over ‘morality’ as a way to simplify the migrant crisis into a game of ‘good’ versus ‘evil’ in order to score political points, and digress from recognising a significant cause of the problem. Because migrants know that British authorities will not stop them from entering the country, more continue to come. Because more come, there is an ever more vast opportunity for the smuggling gangs to profiteer off the exploitation of these vulnerable people – and the supply-and-demand business cycle continues to revolve eternally, and go unchallenged.

For the gangs to be considered “symptomatic”, and to obsess over digressing conversations, such as with the ‘morality’ in the solution, suggests they are not problematic – and implies they are not the malignant force that we know they are, continuing to contribute directly to the problem.

It is often Labour MPs who accuse their opponents of using migration as a political football or a point-scorer (particularly where Brexit is concerned). But to distract the conversation from real solutions does precisely that too. Migrants are not pawns that left-wing politicians should use to bash the Government with.

Migrants, just as much as the rest of us, deserve a solution that doesn’t involve them having to risk drowning in the English Channel. But that starts with tackling the real problems: the lack of deterrents, and the failure to tackle the people-smugglers.

William is a political reporter & columnist, and a Journalism student. His writing focuses on politics, society and culture in Britain.


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