Robison: Closing the Calais jungle

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(HOST) Commentator Olin Robison has been thinking about immigration and the free exchange of goods and ideas in the global community.

(ROBISON) I have spent most of the last month in Europe and have therefore watched a lot of European television and read quite a few European newspapers during that time.  One of the really big stories in Europe during this time has been that of the French police closing down – at least for now – a refugee camp called The Jungle near Calais on the Northern French coast.
The whole business was apparently rather violent.  It was a grandstanding event on the part of the French government and sure enough, the media was completely complicit in the entire affair.  In other words, lots of television.
Apparently there is a long standing practice among many immigrants – especially from Afghanistan – to encamp themselves near the Channel before trying to smuggle themselves into the United Kingdom.  As one Afghan put it, as quoted in one of the London newspapers, "We will all eventually get to the UK." Most of the refugees claim to have family in the UK:  Whether that is true I really don’t know.
Most of the refugees have already paid substantial amounts of money to people who have somehow gotten them from Central Asia to the French coast.  There, apparently, they pay others to smuggle them into the UK.  Both the French and the British governments have tried to put a stop to it – or so they say – to no avail.  And apparently the "welfare" benefits in the UK are more generous than elsewhere in Europe.
Part of the French "grandstanding" in this instance was evident in the fact that the raid – bulldozers, flamethrowers, the lot – was all announced in advance in order to attract maximum press coverage.  This, of course, resulted in terribly grim television images of the subsequent destruction and arrests.  The French equivalent of the Attorney General was on site for all of this to say that the camp was intolerable and that the French action was completely justified.  It would have been, in my opinion, more convincing if he had not looked so thoroughly pleased with himself throughout.
The entire episode was apparently a repeat of previous raids.  It was neither the first nor is it likely to be the last
All of this does expose one of the truly great problems of the modern world;  we are talking about millions of people worldwide.
During the Cold War the United States made a big deal about our being in favor of the free movement of capital, goods, ideas and people across international borders.  But that was back when it was clear that we were he good guys ánd the communists were the bad guys.  Now that the migrants are Afghans, or Mexicans, or Palestinians, we simply don’t know what to say or do.
So, dear friends, stay tuned.  This story isn’t over yet.

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