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Thursday 20 August 2020

Migrant Drowning - Hello Priti Patel

Yesterday morning, Marlene Schiappa, France’s Citizenship Minister, told the world that a 16-year-old Sudanese migrant had been found washed up on the beach at Sangatte. He had drowned trying to cross the Channel from France to England in a tiny inflatable boat. His death is the inevitable consequence of so much desperation, so much tough talk, so much passing the buck, and, whisper it quietly, so much blame gaming.

So when Priti Patel, who is claimed to be the Home Secretary, responded to Ms Schiappa by telling “This is an upsetting and tragic loss of a young life. This horrendous incident serves as a brutal reminder of the abhorrent criminal gangs and people smugglers who exploit vulnerable people. Working together we are determined to stop them”, her lack of sincerity and glaring double standards were soon coming back to haunt her.

Worse, today’s Metro and Daily Mail have made the story their front page lead, the Mail telling readers “A young migrant drowned yesterday trying to reach Britain in a 3ft dinghy - tragically highlighting the human cost of the crisis. The victim, who could not swim, had set off from Calais in the middle of the night with a friend. The pair are thought to have accidentally punctured their inflatable craft with the shovels they were using as oars”.

There was more. “The dinghy started to sink and - although his friend somehow survived - the Sudanese migrant was unable to make it safely ashore … The tragedy sparked a major row yesterday over the Government's handling of the crisis, which has seen record numbers cross the Channel in small boats this year. The Bishop of Dover called for 'definitive action' to protect those 'desperate enough to risk their lives' in small boats”.

And more. “'How much worse does this have to get,' said the Rt Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin. 'We cannot let his death pass by unremarked. This appalling tragedy should be a wake-up call to all of us. We cannot stand by any longer while bodies wash up on the shores.’” And it is Ms Patel who has been talking tough, and blame-shifting, for months now.

Also, as keeps being pointed out by those outside the UK, the demand that anyone claiming asylum in the UK must have already arrived in the UK means there will be more attempts to cross the channel, and more deaths. So it was no surprise when Labour MP Rosena Allin-Khan, who you can tell as she’s a doctor, responded “The ‘exploited vulnerable people’ who you’re deploying Navy warships against? Despicable”.

Fionna O’Leary added “You promote the hardened attitude, the cruelty, the conditions where people take what could be avoidable risks. If you want to tackle the criminals - feel free. But you target those who are suffering and make their journey much more insecure. So spare us the faux pity”. Ms Patel playing to the gallery is what brought us here.

And the problem she has exacerbated can only be solved by her backing down, working with the authorities in France and elsewhere, establishing a safe way for those who want to claim asylum in the UK - and ignoring the rabble-rousing bigots.

Otherwise, Priti Patel fully deserves Cold War Steve’s latest biting caricature. Time to stop grandstanding, and start doing the job of Home Secretary. I’ll just leave that one there.

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1 comment:

Andy McDonald said...

To paraphrase Brick Top from the cinematic masterpiece "Snatch", be very wary of anyone on the south-east coast who owns a powerboat. Remember that Ecstasy boom in the 1990s? How did much of it come in? What are those boats being used for today?

Also, consider an anecdote by comedian Mark Steel, about listening to a man in a pub rant about illegal immigration, off the books work, people smuggling and all, just for the man's wife to pipe in with "And he should know - he employs them!".

The point being, there are a lot of people making money out of this, and some of them may be rather closer to Patel than she might like.