We haven’t seen such nonsense going on in a jungle since the TV series Tarzan ended. How did the Calais Jungle come about, and why have we accepted several hundred ‘child’ migrants, some of whom look old enough to have children themselves?
As a former chairman of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal and Immigration Adjudicator this is a subject I know something about. Since my interim suspension as a barrister, following the bogus bomb hoax prosecution, I have also been appearing as an advocate in political asylum appeals, where I do not need my wig and gown. A number of my Eritrean and Ethiopian clients came to England via the Jungle.
The first point to be made is that some asylum-seekers, including my clients of course, are undoubtedly genuine and have harrowing tales to tell. The second is that the overwhelming majority of asylum applications made in the UK are fraudulent. When I sat as an immigration judge my colleagues reckoned that only about 3% of cases were genuine and engaged the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention. Obviously there was a category of cases where applicants were truthful but their claims did not qualify them for asylum, e.g. because of an internal flight option or the involvement of non-state actors.
Sorting out the minority of genuine claims from the rest was by no means straightforward. The work was quite stressful and a number of my former colleagues suffered breakdowns or had extended periods of sick leave. For the avoidance of doubt I never let my political opinions affect my judicial decisions, very few of which were ever overturned.
The Home Office made that mistake in my court, twice. I am known as a Eurosceptic (!), so when counsel was instructed to make an application in my court to refer a case to the ECJ, on the assumption that I would reject it they simply sent along a presenting officer. He nearly fell out of his seat when I referred the case to Luxembourg (el-Yassini).
The next time I was asked to refer a case (Man Lavette Chen), the Home Office was so sure I would not agree, they didn’t even bother turning up! I duly referred it, acting in accordance with community law, by which I was bound. The appellant won at the ECJ and the case triggered a constitutional referendum in Ireland, the only time I have ever managed to get a referendum under way there.
The Jungle should never have happened. Under the Dublin Convention the EU was treated as a single area for asylum applications. The idea was that all EU states were safe and an applicant should apply in the first EU state he or she entered. That was the theory at any rate.
In practice, states like Italy and France washed their hands of asylum applicants and sent them along to the UK, Germany or Switzerland. Hence the Jungle, to which the French turned a blind eye.
Obviously the Jungle should never have been allowed. The French made occasional attempts to shut it down, but they weren’t serious. It’s only being shut down now because of Brexit and the forthcoming French presidential election. Francois Hollande is desperate to stop Marine Le Pen winning, now a serious possibility given the absence of a credible opponent.
Once out of the EU we will be able to regain control of our borders and insist on proper checks of vehicles coming in from France, most of which are just waved through what passes these days for border control. Since truck drivers and operators would face massive fines for bringing in illegals they would have an incentive to check their vehicles thoroughly before leaving France.
The age of some of the so-called ‘children’ has shocked public opinion and rightly so. Pretending to be under 18 has long been a favourite gambit of asylum-seekers. As soon as it was announced that we had done a deal with Paris and would take a bunch of unaccompanied children there was bound to be a flood of bogus claims. Determining age is not quite as straightforward as it sounds and most tests have a margin of error of two to three years either way.
The government would have been better off using the terms ‘minors’ or ‘young people’. ‘Children’ evoked sympathetic images of kids under 14. However they didn’t, and now there’s a backlash. Some of these ‘children’ could be in their 30s, although they are more likely to be in their late teens or early 20s.
The backlash isn’t going to stop at letting in ‘child’ migrants who are clearly adults. The UK’s adherence to the 1951 Convention itself and our absurd policy of handing out settlement, and in turn citizenship, to successful asylum applicants is bound to come under increasing scrutiny.
The Geneva Convention and its 1967 New York Protocol were designed for a different world and are now hopelessly out-dated. We should withdraw, and engage with other Commonwealth states in drafting a new Commonwealth refugee convention emphasising regional asylum and protection, not citizenship. Australia, Canada and New Zealand face similar problems to ourselves and a joint approach is needed.
I could put together an international team of experts in asylum law in a matter of weeks. Drafting such a convention would be a fairly straightforward process. I dare say I could knock up a reasonable first draft in a weekend!
The 1951 Refugee Convention has been abused to the point where it is now unworkable and will have to go. It is not just economic migrants who have used it to lie their way into the West.
As recent terrorist attacks in France have demonstrated the Convention has also been used by Islamic terrorists. I wouldn’t place much faith in Home Office screening procedures, if I were you. The Home Office won’t even know who the majority of these ‘child refugees’ are, let alone have a clear idea of their background. They will only have conducted the most basic and unsophisticated of checks. I would not be surprised if they’ve managed to let in enough terrorists to make a cell!