Tuesday’s raid by French police of the ‘jungle’ camp of asylum seekers in Calais was welcomed by Britain’s cabinet ministers, with home secretary Alan Johnson describing his “delight” at the “swift and decisive” operation, while immigration minister Phil Woolas deflected criticism from human rights groups by saying: “If they were asylum seekers they would have claimed asylum in France or in the first country they came to.” He added that “genuine refugees” would be protected in the first country they came to, and the rest could go home.
The fact is however that Woolas has no idea how many genuine refugees there were among the estimated 1,500 people living in the camp because of the skewed and inconsistent EU policy that is preventing many asylum seekers from having their applications heard fairly, or, in some cases, heard at all.
European protocol on immigration was enshrined in the Dublin Regulation in 2003, which dictates that immigrants from outside the EU must claim asylum in the first country that they reach (based on the illusion that every state provides equal standards of protection to asylum seekers). The idea behind the policy was to cut down on asylum seekers applying to more than one nation for asylum, while also ensuring that each case is “meaningfully heard”.
But the reality is that the Dublin Regulation is failing on both fronts. According to the European Council on Refugees and Exiles multiple asylum applications have actually increased since its introduction, and countries such as Greece and Italy, the first places of arrival for many refugees in the EU, are proving incapable of coping with the increased number of immigrants. Earlier this month Athens municipal prefect Yiannis Sgouros described Athens as “a dump of human suffering”, and predicted that refugees “will end up in the hands of drug traffickers, pimps and criminals who feed on the chaotic reality”.
The response has been to adopt an increasingly draconian approach to asylum seekers. Afghani residents of the ‘jungle’ complained of having been badly beaten by immigration police on arrival on Greece, and on 1st September, 47 minors from Afghanistan, Somalia and Palestine…