Sniffer dogs and fences to defend British holiday rights: visible symbols for the bankruptcy of British and EU refugee politics

Predictable and still shocking for anybody with a belief in humanitarian values: the so-called ‘Calais migrant crisis’ (note: in media on the continent the term refugee crisis dominates, but maybe even outlets like the BBC fear funding cuts and feel a need to toe the ideological line of the government) is to be met with a zero political solution but increased securitization through dogs and fencing normally reserved for NATO summits. The British Prime Minister uses language that one would except more of the National Front and related outfits, warning his compatriots that ‘a swarm of people [are]coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life, wanting to come to Britain’.

Protest Refugee Deaths, Centre for Political Beauty, Berlin, June 2015. Photo: Stefan Boness,

No consideration that some of those might have legitimate reasons to come and join existing family members under international refugee law. No recognition that the crisis in Calais, as well as at other EU entry points, most prominently Melilla (Spain), Lampedusa (Italy), Lesbos (Greece), Szeged (Hungary), and Traiskirchen (Austria), to name just the few most in the limelight, is an international humanitarian crisis caused to a considerable degree by failed EU refugee and asylum policy. This would be a good starting point for Cameron’s promise to re-negotiate the way the EU does its business, but nothing could be further from his mind. In contrast, he outs himself as the narrow-minded leader of a small island that has lost any international ambition but is focused on internal naval gazing and ensuring nobody threatens its spoils from a global economy that has become unsustainable. His battle cry while sending those sniffer dogs and fencing across the channel thus centres on the phrase ‘We rule nothing out’ to keep the UK borders secure and make sure British people will be able to go on their holidays! What are we to understand by that phrase? Maybe starting to shoot at those who try to enter the UK to solve the problem once and for all and make sure they do not try again and come back?

This attitude is, rather sadly, only topped by Labour’s acting leader Harriet Harman. She urged the PM to secure compensation from the French government and back up such calls ‘by any diplomatic pressure that may become necessary’, whatever those measures may be. What has become of any form of international solidarity the Labour party (or at least parts of it) once stood for?

Stories of solidarity and hope come from other shores. Those include the Greek island of Lesbos, part of a country battered by austerity and with an uncertain economic and political future. Lesbos has of late seen unprecedented numbers of refugees arrive at its shore – and has reacted with solidarity and compassion exercised by locals and foreign tourists alike. If only Lesbos was the holiday destination of the PM and his labour counterpart!

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