Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Joint Anglo-French Deportation Flight Today: The Facts!

Today has seen a flurry of reactionary tabloid tat about the proposed joint UK-France deportation flight to Afghanistan and the so-called 'Global Calais Scheme'. Here are the facts:
  1. There are regular weekly deportation flights from the UK to Afghanistan under the 'Operation Ravel' banner.
  2. The flight will now stop at Lille airport tonight at 23:30 French time to pick up French migrant detainees.
  3. These will NOT be from the destruction of the Pashtun 'Jungle' on 22 September, as French activists, including GISTI (Group Information and support for immigrants) who visit migrants in French detention centres, estimate that 139 of the 140 adult migrants arrested in the clearance have been released.
  4. These include 7 Afghans released from detention in Rouen after the intervention of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which is exactly what happen last November, the last time the UK and France tried to organise a joint deportation flight.
  5. The so-called 'Global Calais Scheme', despite what the tabloid press have been saying, does not entitle the returned migrants to £1,900 cash in hand* (they can't even get the exchange conversion from €2,000 right, which is equivalent to £1,845) and guaranteed retraining if they return home voluntarily. This is in fact yet another version of the International Organisation of Migration's voluntary repatriation scheme (seen in this country under the name Voluntary Return and Reintegration Programme) which has been running for years. With this, the migrant must sign a contract agreeing to return 'voluntarily' (except if they don't they'll get forcibly returned anyway) to their country of origin and not to return to where they are being removed from for 10 years. In return €2,000 (or whatever the going rate is) will be paid to a third party to either provide education and training courses or to supply equipment for a new business start-up. It does NOT go directly to the migrants despite the rubbish contained in the tabloid press.
The bizarre thing is that they can't even get their story straight from one month to the next. Back on 28th of July they were all covering this story, saying effectively what is contained in the previous paragraph, but you only have to look at the byline of the author to tell who we have to blame for this idea. Yes its our old friend Peter Allen of Daily Mail, Telegraph, Star and all points rightward.

In his Telegraph article yesterday he quotes Pierre de Bousquet (who he helpfully identifies as "state Prefect for the Pas-de-Calais, is the most powerful politician in the region" even though he is merely a government official) back in July as saying that the cash "will smooth their passage in their home country and enable each and every one of them to realise their ambitions. Organisations are present in their country of origin who will assure they're looked after." [Surely he can't mean the Taliban here?]

Allen then goes on to say that: "The "Global Calais Scheme" is to be partly paid for by British taxpayers and will be offered to those sleeping rough around the French port as they try to board ferries and trains bound for England.Under the scheme, migrants will be offered a plane ride home as well as resettlement assistance and retraining when they get there. The French government is also offering 2,000 euros (£1,724) in cash." - Are you beginning to see the pattern?

He also got paid for the following version: The controversial plan was announced by French politician Pierre de Bousquet, who said: “Each person will receive the sum of €2,000. This amount will smooth their passage to their home country and enable each and every one of them to realise their ambitions.” - Daily Star

Strangely enough he didn't quote de Bousquet in his Mail version of the article but the de Bousquet quotes were recycled elsewhere. Which brings us back to the current version, which first appeared yesterday as 'Calais migrants to get flight home and £1,900' in the Telegraph under Allen's byline. In an article that is basically a rehash of his original 28 July piece (check out the use of the same photograph with the same caption: 'Migrants in Calais to be offered £1,700 cash and a free flight home') he compounds his original 'mistake' (we'll be diplomatic and call it a mistake, though given the history of the papers that he writes for and whom we understand consider him to be a 'senior and well-trained journalist' it would appear to be one mistake too many to be considered a mere coincidence) by adding the "guaranteed place on the plane worth around £500" to the cost.**

He then goes on to say that " intended to be the first of many flights which will cost millions of pounds, split between France and Britain", and outrage of outrage "there will be nothing to prevent any of them travelling all the way back to France the moment they get to Afghanistan", ignoring the legal basis of the agreement. However, the crowning glory of the article is, (cue roll of drums): "The dramatic development followed last month's clearing of "The Jungle"(!), followed by a rehash of the de Bousquet stuff from the original article, thus disproving that the development is neither dramatic nor that it follows last month's clearance of the 'Jungle'. Again he also gets paid for the same tosh twice when he gets a version in the Mail today, which also surprisingly leaving out any reference to de Bousquet considering the Mail's love of all things French.

The only light at the end of this tunnel is that none of the other tabloids seem to have decided to recycle his tat, as they all seem to do, though the right wing blogosphere have taken to it like a shiver of sharks around a bait ball.

* Interestingly we have come across no French media coverage of this €2,000 in hand cash nor can we find the original public statement by de Bousquet.
**Maybe it was him that also wrote the piece 'Failed asylum seekers living in Britain receive 'resettlement grants' worth thousands' back on 28 July under the 'by Daily Mail Reporter' byline, recycling the same story but from a UK perspective with such wonderful nuggets as: "Ministers insist it provides good value as the total cost of forcibly removing a bogus refugee can be as much as £11,000."; "But the programme has cost the taxpayer well in excess of £30million. In part, this is down to the nature of the businesses opened by its beneficiaries" and "A 35-year-old Iranian was given money to open an ostrich farm, an Albanian was given cash to open a vineyard while a Zimbabwean was paid hundreds of pounds to open a beauty salon."?


The Frecnh leg of the flight was apparently cancelled by Besson either because of lack of landing permission in Baku (according to Besson himself) or because of the public pressure placed upon him (according to everyone else).

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