Saturday, 25 August 2018
Sanctuary... a fable
When the refugees came we were unprepared. They gathered at Calais and waited, seeking out every chance to join the transports. Lorries, ferries, even private cars became part of the fleet. It was impossible to document all of them, the numbers were too great. A trickle became a steady stream and the stream was beginning to burst its banks. Many of the ‘migrats’, as they were often referred to, had no papers, having fled violence in their country of origin, but all of them were in need of sanctuary. And where else to go to than the land they had heard so much about?
Across the English Channel there was the opportunity to start a new life; for many it was a chance to be reunited with loved ones who had made the crossing in earlier years. But now attitudes were beginning to harden. At first the border had been completely open; then it had become less easy to negotiate but still remained porous. Now, however, the sheer weight of numbers made it impossible for all to pass through without delay and they huddled in the resettlement camps awaiting their turn.
Once the emphasis on the part of the French authorities had been to detain migrants and dissuade them from continuing their journey. But now their main role was to shepherd the masses and marshal them into groups for processing, the better to maintain the flow; as fast as ferries could dock they were being loaded with foot passengers bound for freedom and for a better life.
Until Brexit, Britain had been a part of the European Union and although never party to the Schengen agreement, getting to this green and promised land had proved an eminently surmountable obstacle. But since secession, access to the UK had become an even more desirable goal and the thousands had to patiently wait their turn. For some the days had turned into weeks and for many the camp had become home. In a few cases it was the only home they had ever known and the Red Cross field hospital, initially set up to treat injury and disease, had become an ersatz maternity ward.
The next great migration
Of course, nobody wanted to give birth on the French side if they could help it; they wanted their children to be English born, free born, and they came to Calais from all over the continent to make their bid for a new life away from the war zones. Paris, Munich, Amsterdam, Rome, even Brussels itself had become impossible places to live. As the islamic call to prayer rang out day and night and the infrastructure began to fall into disrepair, the white Europeans headed for the only sanctuary left in Europe.