The Calais of our times
Yesterday night, a full understanding of the so-called Calais crisis dawned on me. In fact, it is now known as the Calais migrant crisis and it is seen through the eyes of business and tourism.
Business by the reason of tailbacks of traffic consisting of lorries needing to cross the English Channel between Calais and Dover in either direction. On the tourism side, it is about British holidaymakers unable to cross to mainland Europe and thereby a crisis of sorts in the Kent countryside.
The migrants in Calais consisting of people fleeing from areas of conflict and unrest as Syria, Eritrea, Sudan and Libya along with seemingly economic migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa number up to 5,000 living in the most inhumane conditions in Europe and all trying to cross over to the United Kingdom.
A fantasy, at best
The draw to the United Kingdom, has elements of reality and fantasy, many do think they can easily be subsumed into the system through the black economy which we must accept thrives despite protestations to the contrary and the idea that we have an easy and accessible welfare entry threshold compared to other European countries.
Besides, many of these people come from countries where whatever standard of English they have is passable and will be useful enough for them to get by.
Yet, to view this through the lens of our convenience is to miss the greater issue of the humanitarian crisis on our borders, the fact that a possible majority of these people are desperate, fleeing conflict and danger whilst seeking any opportunity for a life that has a modicum of peace, stability and the ability to provide for themselves and their families.
Our peace is a draw
Peace in Europe is a more than a draw for those willing sometimes without any other choice or opportunity to embark on life-threatening, dangerous and risky journeys from their ravaged homelands for the opportunity of a new life – that is an undeniable draw that is just human in all its ramifications and something anyone in their position will probably do without hesitation.
The English Channel is just 33.1 kilometres (20.6 miles) at its shortest width and standing at shores of Calais it is easy to view the White Cliffs of Dover which are quite visible from Calais as deceptively closer than they really are. Many people have swum the English Channel crossing, the fastest being in 6 hours and 55 minutes, but is it not a feat for the faint-hearted.
Two young men in wet suits
This is how Mouaz al-Balkhi and Shadi Omar Kataf from Syria bought wetsuits and plunged into the busiest shipping lane in the world of the English Channel from Calais in order to swim to England only to perish in their attempt and wash up on the shores of Texel, an island of the Netherlands 465 kilometres away and the coastline of Lista in Norway some 850 kilometres away, respectively. [Their Story]
The lives and deaths of these two young men shows not just the desperation of the migrants, but the risks they are willing to take to make it to the United Kingdom, even if it costs them their lives. Thanks to the Dagbladet newspaper of Norway, these two young men did not end up just another migrant statistic of misfortune, the coincidence of two bodies in wetsuits found on foreign beaches, but they are people like you and me who might have had a different story if their homelands were as peaceful and as comfortable as ours.
This is the case of each and every migrant who has embarked on a perilous journey from the turmoil of war or any other uncomfortable circumstance in their homelands to seek a new life in Europe. Meanwhile, our politicians are suffused in rhetoric and constituency-pleasing banter as the migrant reality is toyed with as a poor reflection of our humanity.
We can do better than this, we surely can.