The row over David Cameron’s use of the word “swarm” when describing migrants trying to board trucks heading through the Channel Tunnel is a way for politicians and the press to avoid the real, and intractable, problem underlying the Calais migrant crisis, says Paul Vallely in The Independent.
The 5,000 migrants camped out in Calais are a “drop in the tide of human misery” that has flowed from upheaval in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan. War has displaced half the entire population of Syria. Yet the UK gave asylum to just 10,050 migrants last year.
That compares with the 63,000 taken by Greece, 41,000 by Germany and 15,000 by France. No wonder Peter Sutherland, the UN special representative on migration, says he is amazed by “the absolute nonsense” being talked in the UK about Calais.
We need to keep a sense of proportion, agrees Philip Stephens in the FT. Up to two million Syrians have fled to Turkey and a third of the population of Lebanon now comprises Syrian or Palestinian refugees. The 28-nation EU has a population of around 500 million and its governments are arguing about how to share out the “burden” of 40,000 asylum seekers, many of them highly skilled young men eager for work.
Building walls and bringing in the military is not the answer, says Roger Cohen in The New York Times. What is needed is a coordinated EU policy that offers a legal route for migrants. The FT agrees. The response of European governments has been “petty and piecemeal”, and if Cameron lacks vision, so does the EU. There should be a “pan-European coordination of process of asylum claims and the creation of legal routes into Europe”.
Ultimately, the “solution to the migrant problem lies at the source”, and while no one expects Brussels to bring peace to the Middle East, a “giant trade bloc with so much diplomatic expertise” has “no excuse to be passive either”. France and Britain should be doing all they can to “foster some semblance of order in the continent’s nearby trouble spots”.