On Wednesday, November 2, I was watching BBC World News and a segment came on showing the last of the "unaccompanied minors" being removed from the unlawful migrant squatters camp called "the Jungle" outside of Calais, France. The migrants, from nearly every part of the globe, but especially the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, have been gathering there over the course of two years after illegally entering France, all hoping to get across the English channel to the United Kingdom by means of the France-UK "Chunnel" that passes underneath.
All of the migrants, adult or otherwise, were being forcibly removed to officially designated registration sites established by France, and the Jungle was being torn down. It had become more than a thorn in the side of both French and British authorities, turning into a hot spot of crime, including physical and sexual assaults, drug abuse, and a real threat to legal Chunnel crossers, not least of them cargo carriers attempting to move goods into the UK.
One of the agreements between France and the UK is that British authorities will consider applications for asylum and entry from unaccompanied minors who were residing at the camp, once they have been relocated to and registered at the centers.
The BBC segment consisted primarily of live video of the loading-up and departure of buses full of minors and others, along with explanatory voice accompaniment from BBC journalist Peter Whittlesea; typical fare, in other words, for anyone who has been tracking the whole mess at the Jungle along with its traffic delays special police measures at the entrance to the Chunnel to prevent migrant smuggling.
But then the studio presenter, Tim Wilcox, mentioned that significant questions had arisen about the true age of some of the so-called minors being admitted to Britain and asked Whittlesea what, if anything, was being done to verify that they were indeed minors. The question clearly rattled Whittlesea, who absurdly said that looking at those boarding buses they seemed to be between the ages of 15 and 17, and then in a figurative and literal pivot worthy of Hillary Clinton being asked about those inconvenient Wikileaks, turned 90 degrees, pointed his hand at a bulldozer clearing a portion of the Jungle that was outside camera range of the bus departure area — and completely changed the subject to talk instead about what was physically left of the camp — leaving Wilcox's question about age verification hanging in the air unanswered. It was astoundingly unsubtle.
I have looked all over the internet trying to recapture the "pivotal moment" (if you'll pardon the pun) to show readers of this blog, but all I've been able to find is this excised version of the video, which eliminates the unmentionable question that was apparently too embarrassing to dignify with answer. Shame on Wilcox!
But Wilcox's question was a good one and deserved to be addressed. A number of observers of the first batches of "minors" arriving in Britain have said that they looked to be far beyond teen years, and more like men in their mid-to-late twenties. This has caused a furor among the British public, because at least some of the photos taken of the arrivals seem to back this up.
The British government's response was to cordon off the arrivals area and screen it with fencing covered by fabric so that photos could not easily be taken. When confronted with a direct question about whether the age of the intended entrants should somehow be verified — for instance with dental examinations, which allegedly can be effective at establishing ages within a reasonable range — Home Office officials brushed it off and said it would be "unethical".
While I don't know whether dental records are the best way to establish age ranges, I can't conceive of reasonable tests being "unethical".
What, I find myself wondering, is ethical about permitting adult males — especially males from Syria, Iraq, and surrounding areas with no verifiable identity (who, it's worth noting, would be at prime jihadist fighting age) — to abuse and subvert a system set up to care for vulnerable children and, in the process, put all of Britain at risk of suffering exactly the same kind of terrorist attacks seen throughout Europe in the recent past?
History denied is history repeated.