Europe: Fortress or Safe Haven? Jey OH photography

Authorities are panicking as thousands of the illegal immigrants who crossed the Mediterranean are now reaching the borders of the UK. The Eurotunnel in Calais is currently flooded with people determined to reach the future they have travelled so far for. It is however questionable if this future will be bright.

I went on holiday to England this summer and had to travel through the Eurotunnel. I had heard about the immigrants on the radio, but I was in no way prepared for what I saw. I may not have travelled in a lorry, but from the lane where the regular cars had to wait, you had a good view of the rows and rows of lost souls on the other side of the road. Waiting, desperately, for a chance to escape. When I boarded the train, the car was surrounded by guards with machine guns and I was pretty sure these guns were not just for show.

Since January 2015 Eurotunnel claim to have stopped approximately 37,000 immigrants. And, according to the latest estimates, 3,000 more immigrants are currently staying in Calais. It is unknown how many of them have actually reached the UK. MP Keith Vaz said police had told him 148 were held in Folkestone on Tuesday after about 2,000 migrants had tried to get into the Eurotunnel at once. Those who failed were sent back to the countries they fled from or got killed. In July already nine people got killed while attempting to bypass security, reports the NOS.

Meanwhile David Cameron is determined to get all these people out of the UK again. On July 30th the Prime Minister warned that the UK will not be a “safe haven” for these immigrants. "Everything that can be done will be done to make sure our borders are secure and make sure that British holidaymakers are able to go on their holidays," he said. The British opposition has a more tempered opinion and criticised the PM for using the expression “swarms of people”. The British Refugee Council called it "irresponsible, dehumanising language".

The illegal immigrants we are talking about are still humans. They are men, women and children. The Kent County Council, for example, assists 605 asylum seekers who are unaccompanied minors. We can’t just leave them to their fate. Thousands of people with no hope, no home and, possibly, no future. According to the 1951 Refugee Convention (a multilateral treaty signed by all European Union Member States) "No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social or political opinion" (Article 33). The least the European Union should do is to give them a place to stay. If not in the UK, then somewhere else.

However, being rational, we know there is no room for all of them and this places the EU in front of a difficult dilemma. As humans, we want to save these people. As rational creatures, we know housing them would cost money, space, jobs and a lot of patience. It is time for the European member states to finally work together and share responsibility in receiving the migrants. The migrant quota system, a system proposed by the European Union with mandatory quotas to share refugees across EU 28 Member States, was a big step forward in solving this dilemma. However, on the 25th of June the national leaders of the EU have scrapped the plans explaining that there is no consensus between the Member States and instead of helping these people they are focusing on how to keep people out and deport those who get in.

This selfish attitude is indeed preventing Europe from solving the “migration crisis”. Instead of accepting the fact that refugees will keep coming to the safe bubble called Europe, the EU keeps strengthening its walls, resulting in a true European “fortress”. Politicians do not realise that the bubble is going to burst under the weight of all the migrants. The member states need to stop focusing on how these people will “weaken” their economies or make a threat to the safety of their country. They need to look at the bigger picture, because trying to keep them out of our way – a strategy which has been used since the early beginning of this crisis – is just not working.