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The Calais Crisis Will Only be Resolved With Compassion and Pragmatism

14/08/2015 10:01 BST | Updated 13/08/2016 10:59 BST

I really did not want to write this article. In fact, as a rule I avoid discussing immigration. The reason for this is that it can usually be relied upon to bring out the very worst in everyone; from left to right.

My left wing friends tend to either take on a rather glaikit expression and recite their previously rehearsed material - conveniently forgetting notions of scarcity and the genuine impact of immigration, or become so full of rage at the mere mention of the subject that they become incapable of reasonable debate.

Right-wingers, I'm afraid, also regularly fail to disappoint whenever the subject comes up. A distinct twitchiness tends to descended across their faces and mutterings of "leeching", "Britain's full" and other nonsense are never far away. So - despite the slight cowardliness on my part - I feel fully justified in not touching the subject with any length of bargepole.

However, the events in Calais have made it unavoidable if I want to keep up any sense of professional obligation to the Huffington Post. So, here goes... I hope I have a friend left in the room afterwards.

We need some context. The "migrant crisis" (not the first piece of loaded terminology we shall encounter) has seen a bottleneck of migrants, mostly from Africa, becoming stranded at Calais in France with the intention of coming to Britain. The BBC estimates the number of people aiming to use the Channel Tunnel to come from France to Britain to be in the thousands. So, it's relatively simple really; lots of very desperate people are playing a very high stakes game of chicken with the French and British governments, using an underwater tunnel in place of the road.

I don't have a solution for this horrific problem but I do offer up some comments for consideration.

Firstly - more to my right wing friends - let's have some genuine compassion. It is very easy to dehumanise people when they are in such large groups; we can relate to one person, or even two but it's frighteningly easy to treat large groups of individuals as mere statistics. I suspect that it is this human failing that has led to some of the more unfortunate rhetoric, such as the Prime Minster's now well-criticised "swarm" remark. Mr Cameron stood as, and is also well known as, a compassionate, moderate conservative and using such a pejorative terms seems out of character rather than indicative of any malice. Besides, the government has done an excellent job of allocating the right-wing tough-talk to Home Secretary Theresa May in the past.

Please, let's keep our language civil and discourage the collectivisation (which is tantamount to dehumanisation) of the people we're talking about. We need to remember that they are generally desperate, down and out and have escaped some horrific circumstances with their lives but not much else; and all in the name of finding a better life for themselves and their families. Like I said, compassion will go a long way in finding a solution.

Secondly - to the leftie crowd - we all need to get real. Simply climbing aboard a well-worn soapbox to demand that Britain take in every single person involved in the crisis in-between Internationale verses will accomplish precisely nothing. Britain does have to play its part in assisting the migrants and certainly has an obligation to take some in but, due to resources, this will have to be part of a broader effort and other governments need to pull their weight too. The French government must step up its game - a tall order with a seemingly politically illiterate man in Versailles - and accept that it has responsibility for incorrectly monitoring and assisting these individuals thus far. However, it should also be kept in mind that the situation will not be resolved without a broader response on a European and international level. All this will require careful, reasonable and pragmatic steps and could use a little less strident rhetoric... but such is always the case in politics.

Perhaps there's one point in this sad saga from which we can take inspiration and hope. Modern Britain is constantly coming under attack from some within it who have a consistently negative view of it. If we listened to them we would come to the conclusion that we have a draconian, undemocratic, grossly unequal, intolerant society; my question would be that if that was the case then why have thousands of people risked their lives and crossed several of Europe's more boring countries to get here? The world can be a really bleak place at times and none can have a bleaker perspective than someone forced to leave their homeland through economic catastrophe or fear of being murdered.

Perhaps if we remembered that in this bleak world of ours Britain shines like a beacon of freedom, tolerance and compassion then we can be proud of ourselves, proud to help others and proud to push the international community to do its best. If we can rally round a positive patriotism about the place we're lucky enough to call home then we can drown-out the anti-British naysayers as well as helping those who sincerely need our help.