Throughout the summer months the flow of illegal migrants crossing the English Channel in rubber dinghies has continued unabated. The Government should have acted far more swiftly to remove the attractive incentives whereby the migrants feel that it is advantageous to keep on risking making the journey. These incentives include being provided with accommodation, medical care, a weekly living allowance, and the legal costs for the processing of asylum claims, which can be a most lengthy activity.
It is both dangerous and a criminal act to attempt to navigate the English Channel in a dinghy in order to gain residence in Britain. The migrants themselves are not exempted from the need to consider the moral implications of their actions. From a Christian perspective, it is gravely morally wrong to enter into a country, knowing beforehand that it is a crime to do so (1 Peter 2:13-14).
Nor is it good enough to lay the blame on the people smugglers, contemptible as they are. The smuggling gangs only operate by virtue of customers willing to collude with them in deliberate law-breaking. No one is forced to use the gangs’ services.
Those who are crossing the Channel cannot be treated as needy refugees fleeing for their lives, because they are coming from a safe country where they are not being persecuted. Nor is it ethical behaviour on their part not to have claimed asylum in France or in any other previously passed through safe countries on the way to France. A man running from a bull in a field, once he has scrambled over the gate of that field, does not carry on running across many other fields.
The flow of migrants will only cease, if there is a withdrawal of the automatic right to claim asylum following illegal entry into the country. We can best show compassion by encouraging the migrants to abandon their attempts to come, and by not giving them clear signals that once they set foot on the South Coast, it is highly unlikely that they will ever be removed. So there is a need to engage in rapid (but of course humane) deportations.
The Liberal Democrat MP, Tim Farron, has argued for a more generous attitude to the illlegal migrants arriving this summer on Christian moral grounds. He states that the relatively small number of migrants (some 4,000 at the time of writing) is “not a crisis for the UK” , and that the Bible teaches that foreigners must not be mistreated (1). One courteously responds that this is a complete mis-application of Scripture, ignoring as it does, the reality of crimes having been deliberately committed. Being foreign does not make law-breaking automatically legitimate.
It also needs to be pointed out that, as the House of Commons Library Briefing Paper No. 07671 of March 2020 states, there is a serious under-supply of housing in England which needs to be rectified by the building of some 345,000 houses per year. In such a context no level of illegal migration can be justified. In any case, according to the respected Migration Watch think tank, there may already be over 1 million illegal immigrants in the UK. How many more is Britain supposed to accommodate?
Continuing with the issue of numbers, if it is a moral obligation to be welcoming to the 4,000 migrants who have arrived thus far, where does the moral obligation end? Should the UK accept another 40,000 or 400,000, or even a million?
In those countries where, it is argued, conditions are so bad that fleeing from them to the UK is perfectly understandable and justified, it is of course the case that the whole populations of those countries are living under the same regime and under the same conditions. So to be logical, literally millions of refugees have a legitimate reason to flee and seek asylum in the UK. So, to those who claim, in line with the politically correct spirit of the age, that ever more generosity to asylum seekers is the right course, how many millions in their view is Britain supposed to take in? The numbers question must be faced up to.
The reality of course is that the duty of compassion towards those seeking asylum rests primarily with the governments of the countries which the migrants are so anxious to leave. Is Britain applying strong diplomatic pressures upon the various nations where many are claiming to be persecuted? Are international agencies focusing upon removing the iniquitous internal conditions which are causing many to leave their homelands in there first place?
In a fallen world in rebellion against God there are always political, social and economic upheavals afflicting different nations. In such a world conflicts and persecutions keep on occurring, but these problems cannot be solved by illegal transfers of populations across continents. The upheavals have to be dealt with at source, and within the same geographical regions, by, for example, internationally overseen refugee camps located within those regions.
There is also the key issue of whether those claiming asylum are doing so honourably, or simply because they desire a better standard of living. It needs to be stated that residence in the United Kingdom is not a basic human right to be claimed by anyone in the world who desires economic betterment.
Furthermore, how on earth is it possible for the UK authorities to ascertain the truthfulness of the claims of asylum seekers to being persecuted? How can the Home Office possibly gain familiarity with the circumstances of each individual applicant, especially in the absence of any official documentation? It is an impossible task from the outset, and it is not morally virtuous to use taxpayers’ money to pursue the impossible.
Illegal migration ignores the fact that nations with controlled borders are God’s pattern for this world (Deuteronomy 32:8, Acts 17:26). Entrance into another country without permission is a deliberate overturning of God’s order. It is also a refusal to respect one’s neighbour’s landmark (Deuteronomy 19:14).
Christian charity and the loving of one’s neighbour does not demand the condoning of pre-planned criminal behaviour, which is what unauthorised migration is. There is simply no moral high ground in excusing illegal entry on the grounds of asylum-seeking. The most moral and compassionate solution to this current crisis is to tell all would-be travellers across the Channel that to attempt this hazardous journey will simply not achieve the goal which they desire.