Across Europe thousands of asylum seekers are searching for sanctuary. I visited Athens briefly in August this summer, and squares were filled with Syrians fleeing ISIS, freshly off boats, aimless and homeless, with their belongings packed into a few bags. Prior to Athens I had visited Serbia, where migrants again sat in parks in downtown Belgrade, near the train station that had brought them to another stop on their destination-less journey. TV screens and newspapers do a good job at distancing us from the reality of people fleeing; its easy to see it as another news story, people as numbers, and their attempts to cross borders as criminal, but in the flesh these were real people, real families, real infants. The increased movement of people across Europe is a very real issue that needs careful and compassionate governance and international cooperation.
Whilst innocent families are fleeing chaos in the Middle East, French ferry workers are creating their own kind of chaos. Chaos in the form of barricades, both by burning tyres and blocking port access by sea. Chaos causing 40-mile lorry queues in Kent, delayed holidays (3 days of mine…), at an estimated cost in wasted time and effort of £250 million a day. That’s more than a billion pounds a week.
Why are the ferry workers striking? Well, because some will lose their jobs due to a necessary formality regarding Eurotunnel’s channel-crossing monopoly. MyFerryLink is owned by Eurotunnel, who have had to sell their ferries to DFDS as they were breaking competition laws. This is clearly devastating for those involved; they may lose their jobs, and struggle to provide for their families for a while. But this is no excuse for vandalism and criminal activity. I’ll repeat, for every day of disruption, it has cost the French and UK governments, businesses and holiday-goers a total of £250 million. The relatively small action of burning a few tyres has a knock on affect of seismic proportions.
Let’s bring back in to comparison the asylum seekers and ferry workers. The ferry workers may lose their form of income for a short time, but they are forgetting they live in a western democracy, with a safety net for those out of work, access to health care, protection of an army and a fair justice system. The failed states that asylum seekers are fleeing have none of this. Anarchy rules. ISIS beheads Christians and pushes homosexuals from roofs. If the strikers saw what they had, would they be causing such disruption?
Asylum seekers want citizenship, they want ‘the state’, they want governance. They want the stability and security they see in Germany, France, the UK and across Europe. The ferry workers challenge this, they don’t want to play by the rules. Even when they are truly fortunate to be living where they live.
So we have two problems. Disruptive strikers and desperate asylum seekers.
According to City A.M., the UK government spent £283 million supporting all 31,945 people who applied for asylum last year. Meanwhile, in one day 100 port and ferry workers have been costing us £250 million.
This is where the solution lies: Striking that results in this sort of monetary loss is out-right banned. Money saved is used to welcome thousands of asylum seekers who desperately want to live within the order of France, the UK and elsewhere.
But this won’t work unless there is an incentive for strikers to behave and think about the bigger picture.
So what can be done? What could possibly make the strikers see how good they’ve got it and how selfish they are being?
Well I’ve done a little research (thanks skyscanner.net), and it seems to buy a flight to Baghdad today would cost only £389. This is a drop in the ocean compared to 100 strikers’ collective daily damage of £250 million (2.5 million per striker). A price, you could argue, worth paying. If these strikers were flown to Baghdad on a vacation to ISIS held territory (I’m sure their airport transfer wouldn’t be too expensive) they would quickly learn how lucky they are to live with freedom in the good governance of Western Europe. If they knew what they had they wouldn’t be rebelling. So let’s make them appreciate it.