But who else is to blame for migrant deaths?

The promise of being able to disappear into a burgeoning illegal economy comprising food takeaways and restaurants, nail manicure bars, massage parlours and cannabis farms is what encourages migrants to make the sometimes perilous journey to the UK, writes Christopher Goff.

The high street is thriving down my way, well, sort of. There's a Kurdish barber's shop on pretty much every main street in the centre of town; Chinese takeaways and nail manicure bars in most districts; an Indian restaurant seemingly on every street corner, sometimes in a former pub building; Turkish kebab shops galore; Pakistani-run fried chicken shops, mini-cab operators and mobile phone repairers; and even a few Thai massage parlours. Whitey, you might be interested to know, has the monopoly over vaping shops and tattoo studios.

Little wonder why then the UK is a hot destination for poor people the world over, including from countries like Iran, Pakistan, China and Vietnam, looking for a better life. The recent deaths of 38 adults and one teenager, the bodies of whom were discovered in the back of a refrigerated lorry trailer at Grays, Essex, after apparently suffocating, echoes two similar tragedies: in 2000, 58 men and women were found dead in a lorry at Dover, while in 2015 the bodies of 71 people were found in an abandoned lorry at the side of an Austrian motorway. There have also been a number of close calls: in 2014, 35 men, women and children were found in a shipping container at Tilbury Docks suffering from hypothermia and severe dehydration.

In the case of the people found dead in the most recent incident – thought to be Vietnamese – it has been reported how some of them had paid as much as £30,000 to be smuggled to the UK. But what is even more disturbing, is that it seems as if the financing of the smuggling operations were, at least in some cases, family enterprises, since media reports have suggested that in some cases it was the parents of the victims who had raised the money to fund the operation. On this matter, it would be interesting to see if the Vietnamese authorities bring prosecutions against the parents of any of the victims, the actions of whom led to them being placed in great danger. It would, of course, have been the eventual aim of some of the migrants to send money back to relatives in Vietnam.

Important questions are being asked about the deaths of the 39 people discovered in Essex, not least who was responsible for trafficking them. But there is a wider question we should also be asking: Why do migrants so often want to come to the UK? What is so attractive about the UK that made these people want to cross the Channel when they could have settled in countries just as affluent as our own, like France, Germany or The Netherlands? You will note that it is every bit possible that these people were still alive when they reached the Belgian port of Zeebrugge, but then died either during the ferry crossing or in the time the lorry trailer was parked up on an Essex industrial estate.

People in important positions of responsibility, including politicians, immigration officials and police officers, have a handy scapegoat, don't they? Well, perhaps not a scapegoat in the true sense of the word, but at least an individual or a small group of people who can conveniently shoulder all of the blame for this tragedy. It seems churlish and at the same time pathetic for these people to blame the traffickers when on the one hand the victims of tragedies like these have needed the help of criminal gangs to get to the UK, while on the other hand these same politicians, immigration officials and police officers so often turn a blind eye to that exploitation of migrants which is happening right under their noses, and often in plain view. It is not as if the people smugglers 'lured' these migrants to this country and ultimately their deaths.

I would say the people whose failures have turned this country into a veritable paradise for illegal immigrants have blood on their hands, but to do so would be nonsensical for it is the case that suffocation, one assumes, doesn't involve much in the way of blood. And I think the same also applies to death by drowning.

You will doubtless recall how, in 2004, at least 21 illegal Chinese cockle pickers were drowned by an incoming tide at Morecambe Bay. The migrants, who it was said had arrived hidden in containers at Liverpool, were being hired to pick cockles by a father-and-son team at much lower rates of pay than local workers. One witness to the tragedy, a local man and experienced cockle picker, told the jury at the subsequent trial that he had beforehand warned the coastguard, fisheries department and police about his fears that lives would be lost, but he said his warnings fell on deaf ears. And while the Home Office later denied it could have done more to prevent the deaths of these workers, the local MP, Geraldine Smith, claimed officials had turned a blind eye to the issue, saying: "They were a low priority so they were just left to wander around". Ms Smith also said she had previously alerted ministers to the high number of illegal workers in her town, and had even feared the further loss of life because a large number of illegal cocklers had returned to work in the bay after the tragedy. Only rather tellingly, the court was shown an e-mail sent by the Home Office to Geraldine Smith in 2003, stating: "The resource implications of arresting, interviewing and releasing such numbers are huge and simply not justifiable".

The failure of the authorities to properly get to grips with Britain's burgeoning black economy has led to the creation of a situation where illegal migrants are attracted to the UK like honeybees to an open jar of honey. And if illegals are ever caught, the likelihood of them ever being returned to their places of origin is extremely slim, especially in the case of young-looking adults who are often able to successfully deceive gullible officials into thinking they are children, so avoiding the possibility of deportation altogether. This when I believe the forensic assessment of an individual's teeth, including the taking of dental radiographs, can be a reasonably good predictor of age. Only opponents to such checks describe them as 'unethical'.

When the system is so loaded in favour of illegal migrants seeking a better life in our country, who can blame them for wanting to try and get here? The pull factors are just too strong. And more people will die trying to get to our shores, of that I am sure.

Only by a root and branch dismantling of the black economy and with that a reduction in the number of employment opportunities for illegals can we hope to stem the flow of migrants to this country. However, such a task quite obviously requires something that our political leaders have not got … the will to tackle this particular problem. In fact, such is the lack of will to try and dismantle the black economy one could be forgiven for thinking that the government is happy to see it exist. You might even hear politicians say of it: "We may as well turn a blind eye. It hurts no one". Only how very wrong they are.

Copyright © Christopher Goff
Tag: Migration
Uploaded: 28 October, 2019.