A bigger, higher fence will not solve the migrant crisis

Another day, another tragedy as a boat packed with hundreds of migrants overturns in the Mediterranean, writes Green Party leader Steven Agnew MLA.

I pay tribute to the Irish navy and other agencies which were involved in trying to rescue the men, women and children who were plunged into the sea.

More than 2000 migrants are said to have died in 2015, so far, trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe. This, combined with stories about thousands of frantic people storming the channel tunnel, only serves to highlight the plight of those fleeing their homes.

No doubt Mr Cameron will continue in his efforts to warn that Britain is not a ‘safe haven’ and that British holiday makers should be able to go on holiday unhindered by ‘swarms’ of people.

No doubt Mr Farage will continue to use aggressive language in his call for the army to be deployed.

Don’t get me wrong. I have sympathy for the hauliers whose businesses are directly affected through no fault of their own.

But in the midst of media hysteria and hostile attitudes, please stop and think. Why are people so desperate to leave and abandon friends and family?

Many of these migrants are escaping extreme poverty, conflict and oppressive regimes. This is a complex and on-going problem; making short-term responses based on deterrents alone is deeply flawed.

We know, for example, that climate change is already a driver for some of this migration and unless urgent action is taken it will continue to displace people. In spite of this both UKIP and the Tories are actively working against renewable energy solutions.

A new, bigger, higher, more expensive fence will not solve the problem. Neither will putting the blame on lorry drivers.

The Green Party calls on the British Government to take a humanitarian approach and work with local agencies on the ground to ensure that our fellow human beings are afforded basic dignity and respect, free from the threat of abuse.

Yes, something needs to be done. And that something must include a long term approach that tackles causes of immigration –civil unrest, persecution, famine and hunger.

This blog post was published in the Belfast Telegraph on Friday 7 August 2015

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