Richard North, 14/08/2015  

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Many moons ago, as one of a group of newly recruited cadets presented with our Lee Enfield No 4 rifles, we were given the task of learning the names of the components of said instruments of death, a ritual known to generations of soldiers as "the naming of parts".

There was even a poem by Henry Reed on this ritual - one of the first steps in marking the transition from callow civilian to soldier. But it is a ritual that applies to every trade and profession – one of learning its special vocabulary, knowledge of which distinguishes the practitioner from the outsider.

By that measure, every bit as vital is clarity and precision in the use of words in migration and the attendant policy. Sloppy use of vocabulary leads to confusion and muddle.

The need for such discipline, however, does not appear penetrated the closed world of Migration Watch which has issued a briefing note on "Lessons from Calais" accompanied by a comment piece in the Times by its proprietor, Andrew Green.

The briefing note in itself is quite remarkable in addressing the issue of asylum, without once mentioning the 1951 Refugee Convention, or the 1967 Protocol. Very large invisible elephants in rooms come to mind.

Compounding the error, Green then laboriously complains about "the decline in credibility of the UK immigration system", when in fact the issue to hand is not immigration, per se, but asylum policy. In legal and practical terms, this is a very different thing. Immigration policy is not asylum policy.

Based on his falsehood, however, he adds further confusion by asserting that the French blame us for the weaknesses of our immigration system "that make the UK so attractive". Green thus cites, Philippe Mignonet, deputy mayor of Calais, claiming that: "Calais is the route, but Britain is the magnet", with migrants in Calais "well aware of this weakness".

Whatever else, this latter assertion is not evidence-based, with work by the Refugee Council providing a contrary view. Largely, asylum seekers coming to the UK have very little detailed or meaningful knowledge of the asylum system. A survey conducted by the Council found that the overwhelming majority (around nine out of ten of all respondents) said that they did not know anything about asylum policies in the UK before they arrived.

Despite this, Green would have it that the UK is a "soft touch", a myth we see extensively promoted, in part resting on payments made to asylum seekers of £36.95 a week (€188.81 a month).

Yet, compared with "soft" Britain, these "generous" payments are easily capped by the French Temporary Waiting Allowance of €11.45 a day/per adult or €343.50 a month of 30 days as of 1 January 2015. The Swedes, on the other hand, pay €226 per month while the cash allowance in Germany is €137 a month. 

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Totally unrelated to the scale of payments, though, is the scale of asylum in each country. According to Eurostat figures (cited by the European Commission), while the UK took six percent of EU asylum seekers in 2014, France took 11 percent, the same as Italy, with Sweden taking 14 percent and Germany 35 percent.

Effectively, nothing anywhere, by way of substantive evidence, suggests that the UK is particularly attractive to asylum seekers. Nor is there any correlation between treatment, payments and numbers. And, in quantum terms, the UK's 31,945 asylum applications in 2014 represented only five percent of gross immigration (641,000 people) in the same period.

From this we also see that asylum seekers – at least numerically – are not the major problem nor one which is amenable to tweaking asylum conditions. Yet Green – in a mirror image of the Farage doctrine - wants there to be a "full search of trucks as they arrive at Dover, and that migrants discovered there (or subsequently at motorway service stations) should be taken to detention centres near by".

These centres, writes Green, "should be 'one stop shops' that consider any asylum claims rapidly and on site; those who fail should be held until they can be removed". Helpfully, he then tells us, "If this requires changes in the present law then so be it".

So we come full circle. The law – unspecified – is the 1951 Geneva Convention, the one which he does not mention. Yet, as we see here "fast track" asylum seekers (those judged unlikely to be given refugee status) are already detained. The system already works in a way the Green is advocating, insofar as it can. 

All we are getting from Green, therefore, is another dose of confusion, another pundit who can't even be bothered to consult the extensive literature and research data already available, in order to get his terminology right and talk coherently about complex and diverse problems.

With his input, therefore, once again the legacy media gets it wrong – "the naming of parts" a distant ritual that no longer applies to those who would claim to keep us informed, but who do an increasingly shoddy job.

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