Are dogs and fences really the answer to the migrant “crisis”?

Are dogs and fences really the answer to the migrant “crisis”?

Date: 31 July 2015

Today David Cameron announced that additional security personnel, sniffer dogs and fences will be sent to Calais to stop “migrants” from entering the UK. He couldn’t be more wrong in his approach. We need to address the conditions forcing people to migrate, not build more fences and walls.

The mainstream media has been awash in the past week with dehumanising and vilifying language about a “swarm” of migrants and “migrant madness” to describe what is in fact a few hundred people trying to access the Eurotunnel terminals without permission. Media outlets that refused to use the word “invasion” about the war in Iraq, freely use the word to describe the people trying to cross from France to the UK.

The discourse of migration has gotten out of hand. This week Peter Sutherland, the UN’s special representative on international migration, said that the scale of the crisis is “exaggerated beyond belief” and being “calculated to inflame tensions”.

Somehow, lorry queues in Kent have become the biggest concern for most politicians. Yes, we are facing a crisis, but it is not about traffic jams, disrupted holiday plans or “floods of migrants.” The crisis is that people are being forced to move and that thousands of them are dying on Europe’s borders.

More fences and walls will only cause more death and suffering. There will be no solution to the current crisis without addressing the structural issues forcing migration, many of which actively involve the UK government – unfair “free” trade agreements, exploitation of natural resources, structural adjustment programmes with the World Bank and IMF’s brutally imposed regimes of privatisation and austerity, wars, tax havens. The list goes on.

Let’s face it: the real problem is not that there is an increased pressure on public services in southeast England, but that the UK consistently has supported the deterioration of public services elsewhere via structural adjustment programmes and aid money pushing privatisation schemes. The problem is not that people want to come to the UK to work, but that rich countries, via unfair trade agreements and the exploitation of resources, have destroyed poorer economies.

The xenophobic sentiments of the media and politicians have become a smokescreen for global structural inequalities. We must move beyond racist newspaper headlines and ramp up the fight against neoliberalism and the West’s active entrenchment of structural poverty in the global south.