Comment: Higher fences will not solve the Calais migrant crisis

By Nazek Ramadan

Building ever taller fences and sending in dogs to chase desperate people fleeing war, conflicts and human right abuses will not solve the situation in Calais. It will merely push people to use other routes.

What we are seeing in Calais and the Mediterranean is evidence of Europe's asylum and migration policies and processes failing. The current crisis has been fuelled by the lack of collaboration and solidarity among European countries and an unfair deal for the southern and eastern European countries.

The Dublin Convention led to countries like Malta, Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Spain being forced to man the borders on behalf of northern European countries. The convention imposes an unfair and unequal responsibility on the countries at the first point of call for many people seeking asylum.

Looking at the countries of origins for migrants crossing the Mediterranean, such as Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan, it is very clear that those embarking on the dangerous journey are people fleeing war, conflicts and persecution. Targeting the people smugglers will not stop those desperate from crossing to Europe. Smugglers are not the cause of migration – wars and persecution are.

As signatories of the United Nation's 1951 Refugee Convention, European countries are under a legal obligation to offer protection, and individuals are legally entitled to leave their countries and seek sanctuary.

It is very worrying not to hear the UN Convention mentioned by politicians responding to the recent crisis. Instead they focus exclusively on strengthening the borders, combating trafficking and sending people back into danger in countries with dubious human rights records.

Providing legal routes should form the immediate response and action for both the UK and the EU. We are in the middle of the biggest global refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War, and this problem will not be going away soon. Other neighbouring countries to Europe such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have taken on millions of asylum seekers. Eighty per cent of the world's refugees are hosted in developing countries.

A longer term plan to bring the international community together to address wars, conflicts, extreme poverty and issues forcing people to flee their countries, should be our priority instead.

Europe can no longer ignore troubles in neighbouring countries and continents. This is not about fences. This is about tackling the real causes of this crisis. Without European solidarity to better share the responsibility for supporting the migrants on our doorstep this crisis will only continue.

Nazek Ramadan is the director of Migrant Voice. You can follow Migrant Voice on Twitter

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