16 FEB 2017

We need to guard against a return of the Calais Jungle

At the Dover and Deal frontline, we have seen the true horrors of the Calais migrant magnet. This is why we fought to get the Jungle camp dismantled.

By the time the battle was won last autumn, nearly 10,000 people had been lured to Calais, living in conditions of appalling squalor – rickety shacks and tents. There was no running water and little sanitation. Just 22 miles across our English Channel, people traffickers roamed free, exploiting migrants – adults and children alike.

Dismantling the Jungle and moving the people there into safe reception centres far from Calais was a major step forward in weakening the pull factor people traffickers rely on.

This week the Government sought to tackle trafficking further – by limiting the number of child refugees Britain takes in under a scheme known as the Dubs amendment. People in Dover in Deal know the risk is that the good intentions of this scheme could cause the evil of the Jungle to return.

It sounds compassionate to bring in child refugees from Calais to Britain. Yet what would happen is that Calais would once again become a migrant magnet. The people traffickers would encourage families to make the dangerous journey to Calais. There they would once again be subject to horrendous conditions and terrible exploitation.

That's why the Government is right to be seeking to resettle people from war-torn countries like Syria. We have a strong record of making a difference. We took in hundreds of children from the Calais Jungle last year. We reunited them with their families already living in the UK – giving them a warm bed to sleep in and a roof over their head at Christmas.

At the Dover and Deal frontline we have been working hard to care for refugee children. In Kent we look after nearly 800 – almost a quarter of all child refugees in Britain. That's five times more than the whole of Scotland – and 12 times more than Wales. This has put real pressure on public services. It's incredibly disappointing that other councils and other nations fail to do their bit.

In Kent we are in a very real way at the frontline of this migrant crisis. It is we who see families shivering in the back of refrigerated lorries at Dover docks. It is we who see desperate migrants landing on Deal beaches in dinghies and claiming asylum. And it is we who see our resources stretched to the brink as we care for ever more vulnerable youngsters dumped on our doorstep by ruthless people traffickers.

This is why taking in more refugee children from Calais and the Dubs amendment system is the wrong answer. The right answer is to discourage people from coming to Calais at all. And to take the battle to the people traffickers and end their evil trade of modern slavery.

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Charlie Elphicke

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