The number of migrants trying to get into the Eurotunnel terminal near Calais has fallen dramatically in the last week or so following the installation of new fences and the introduction of extra security guards. The impact on the haulage industry and the wider economy prompted an urgent meeting of the UK Government’s contingencies committee, Cobra, and we have seen an urgent response to the security issues surrounding the crisis.
But the tragic humanitarian aspects of this problem are being largely ignored as the mayhem continues.
Many of the migrants have fled brutal conflict, instability and persecution in countries like Syria, Eritrea, Somalia and Afghanistan. Already traumatised by their experiences (many will have witnessed the death of family members or will have been victims of violence themselves), they are now living in horrendous conditions, entire families crammed into small tents with limited access to food and water. They are encountering health problems such as severe skin problems, gangrene, respiratory inflammation, diarrhoea, scabies and psychological disorders. Many have broken bones after falling from trucks, others have been slashed by razor wire after attempting to scale fences. Some of these people are extremely vulnerable, including children and pregnant women.
All the attention (and funding) has been focused on the security measures required to control the migrants. We should set these considerations aside for a moment because there is now an urgent need to address the desperate ongoing humanitarian consequences of the situation. European governments need to ensure that local authorities are properly resourced to cope with the fallout from the crisis. Would it not be appropriate to release funds from the overseas aid budget for this purpose?