THE BLOG
04/08/2015 12:26 BST | Updated 04/08/2016 06:59 BST

Storming the Castle: Calais, or the Failure of the EU's Migration Policies

As with 'Grexit', the migration crisis is testing the EU's ability to find long-term solutions to pressing challenges.

The distressing images from Calais on the front pages of the newspapers each morning and beamed into out our living rooms each night are a sad reminder of the European Union's failure to address and tackle migration.

They also show how deep national divides have become in Europe, with the UK blaming France and France blaming Italy and Greece for failing to process asylum seekers arriving on its doorstep, opening the doors for them to travel elsewhere.

Meanwhile, countries on the Mediterranean, where refugees fleeing conflict usually arrive, accuse their northern counterparts of not doing enough to help easing their burden. And the European Commission, which wants to set up a system of compulsory quotas, reproaches member-states for not taking their share of asylum seekers.

While national capitals and EU institutions point fingers at each other, thousands of North African and Middle Eastern migrants die trying to cross the Mediterranean, and thousands more live in terrible conditions, deprived of their most basic rights. Refugee settlements such as the 'jungle' in Calais, or those in the Greek island of Lesbos, should have no place in the developed world, let alone in Europe, which prides itself in being a champion of democracy and human rights.

The Arab Spring and the subsequent Libyan and Syrian conflicts have shown that the EU urgently needs to find a common approach to migration. But the response needs to be sustainable. The traditional focus on border controls - 'Fortress Europe' - is no longer appropriate. Europe needs to defend its borders, but it cannot neglect the humanitarian crisis unfolding in its backyard.

The current European asylum system (known as the 'Dublin system'), designed to avoid situations such as the one in Calais, is clearly not working. Under 'Dublin', potential refugees need to apply for asylum in the first country of entry, which is responsible for guaranteeing that they enjoy an adequate standard of living until their application is processed.

But as the countries of first entry are usually the same three or four, they are routinely overwhelmed with applications and fail to take the necessary diligence in monitoring large flows of refugees. According to reports, around 70 per cent of migrants in Calais do not wait for their application to be processed.

Uncontrolled settlements such as the 'jungle' make it easier for migrants to escape supervision. It is the responsibility of French authorities to ensure that this does not happen. This lack of supervision means migrant move elsewhere in the EU, in search of better conditions. All member-states are responsible for ensuring that these 'secondary movements' do not happen. And they are also responsible for ensuring that asylum seekers have decent living standards while awaiting the results of their application.

The whole of Europe should be ashamed of situations such as the one in Calais. Asylum seekers should be spread around the EU, with quotas based on population and other socio-economic criteria. Countries of arrival and transit (such as Italy, Greece and France) should exercise their due diligence when processing arrivals. Financial support from the EU could help them in doing so.

There is nothing to stop the UK from joining a system of quotas, despite its opt-out from EU asylum laws. British politicians should realise that the Calais crisis is, first and foremost, a humanitarian emergency. And that heated rhetoric (such as Prime Minister David Cameron's unfortunate 'swarming' statement) will serve one politician more than anyone else: Nigel Farage.