Saturday, 10 January 2009

Misunderstanding Sangatte

As Nigel says:

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: “Monsieur Pinte clearly does not understand the UN convention on refugees but prefers to pass on the problem to Britain. And he has no understanding of history as most of the countries he refers to were not British colonies.”

Well, quite. Would be immigrants into the UK can be divided into three groups. Firstly, those who are EU citizens, such as those from Eastern Europe. They have, under EU law, an absolute right to move and settle in here, just as you or I have an absolute right to move to any other EU country. Whether we like this or not is entirely different from whether this is true or not. (There are still some restrictions on Romanians or Bulgarians *working* in the UK, but they have the freedom to come here all the same.)

The second group are migrants from outside the EU. These might be economic migrants, family members, students, whatever, and at present it is up to each individual country as to who they will let in and why. Brazil and Portugal have a special arrangement for historical reasons, as an example, as the UK does with, say, family members in ex-Empire countries. The EU is very much trying to take control of this aspect of immigration and is encroaching on the national perogatives. For example, there's a mooted change whereby someone who comes in under one of those special arrangements, or who gets the right to live in any one EU country, can then assume the right to live in any other EU country.

Then there's the third group, asylum seekers. These are people (in the true definition) fleeing oppression in their homelands. The law here isn't either national or EU. It's a UN Convention. The problem I think that most of us have isn't that there is a special set of laws for asylum seekers. We wouldn't send dissidents back to be murdered by a Stalin type figure, send Jews into the Holocaust, the problem is in distinguishing between those cases and those who are simply adopting such a cloak to cover their desire to be economic migrants.

So, what is it that M. Pinte said?

In an open letter to France’s Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux, Mr Pinte, the MP for Versailles, said Britain should accept all the migrants in northern France and consider their asylum claims on British soil.

He said: “Why are the British rejecting them while at the same time they’re welcoming thousands of citizens from eastern Europe and in particular from Poland?

“They don’t want to stay in France. They have a common history with the British. Most of them speak English. They often have family members who emigrated to Great Britain at a time when being part of the Commonwealth entitled them to do so.

The EU migrants are let in because EU law insists that they should be let in. The asylum seekers are in France because asylum seekers don't have the right to go where they want. They have the right to claim shelter and succour from the first safe country they get to. Unless he's saying that France is not a safe place, the very fact that they are in France means that, as asylum seekers, France is the place they should seek asylum.

This isn't a matter of interpretation, or nuance, this is simply what the law is. And as Nigel points out, M. Pinte seems to simply not know what this law is.

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