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The RSC Director talks to BBC News about the Calais migrant crisis

Yesterday, Professor Alexander Betts, RSC Director, was interviewed on News at Five on the BBC News Channel about the Calais migrant crisis and the UK government’s latest proposals in response (e.g. removing automatic benefits from families who do not win asylum). He said: “We have to recognize that this is a crisis that has a broader context. The numbers coming across from Calais are comparatively small, 3-4000 people… Yes, it’s disruptive… but we’ve seen 175,000 people cross the Mediterranean to Italy and to Greece this year, we see millions of refugees around the world, more than at any time since the 2nd World War… We need to get perspective and recognize this is a global challenge and a European crisis, and these responses are simply not going to solve the problem.”

He argued that the UK government’s response “is a reaction to tabloid newspaper rhetoric”. He continued: “Actually, people don’t just want to come to the UK… It’s a gross exaggeration to suggest that we’re attracting more than other European countries. We’re not. If anything, we could look at it very differently and suggest that in the context of the global refugee crisis – with 4 million Syrian refugees, 1.5 million in Turkey, 1.2 million in Lebanon, 600,000 in Jordan, and the real burden in Europe being borne by Germany, Sweden, Italy, Greece – in a way, the UK is taking a disproportionately small part of the responsibility for a global challenge.”

He finished by arguing that in view of the cost and disruption of the current situation, “probably the most realistic response would be to allow asylum seekers…to cross into the UK and to assess their asylum claims. If they are genuine refugees, we have a legal obligation to provide them territory. If they’re not genuine refugees, we can treat them humanely and seek to return them to where they’ve come from.”

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