The immigration crisis is a real and present issue for many modern nations and a source of great anxiety for citizens and migrants alike. How does God expect people to treat foreigners in their lands, even in times of strife?
The United Kingdom is struggling with an unresolved migrant crisis. Thousands are risking the dangerous English Channel crossing from France, often in flimsy and inadequate craft, in a desperate attempt to find a new and better life.
It reminds one of a time more than 80 years ago, when small ships facilitated the miracle of Dunkirk. Tomorrow’s World presenter Rod McNair talked about it in his telecast “The Miracle of Dunkirk,” which you can watch online at TomorrowsWorld.org. Mobilized to rescue the British Expeditionary Forces from destruction on the beaches of France, hundreds of fishing and pleasure boats carried thousands of soldiers safely from the shores of France home to Britain across miraculously placid waters in the English Channel. Today, hundreds of small boats are not bringing soldiers home; they are carrying migrants to new homes in the U.K.
When our thoughts turn to migrants, it is easy to think first of the southern border of the United States, which the previous U.S. president hoped to close off with a wall. But migrants are prominent throughout Europe, as well.
Separated from Europe by some 20 treacherous miles of water that comprise the world’s busiest shipping lane, Britain is having its own migrant crisis. In 2021, more than 27,000 known migrants travelled those waters, sometimes in perilously small boats, ill-equipped to make the crossing from France—and these are only those who have been intercepted and counted. How many others have successfully made the crossing and slipped into the country is unknown, but the number intercepted is three times higher than that of the previous year (“France says it is up to UK to solve Channel boat migrant crisis,” Financial Times, December 2, 2021). Add the trucks and trains that ply the Chunnel from France and are frequently used as a means for migrants to sneak beneath the Channel, and Britain clearly reveals a permeable border.
The physical effort made even to reach the shores of the English Channel is unbelievable. People cross the Alps from Italy to France on foot, even in the dead of winter and ill-equipped for the task. The horror stories associated with these journeys are almost equal to those of pioneers crossing the Rocky Mountains as the western U.S. was settled in the nineteenth century. Going on from France, an increasing number of people are unsuccessful in their effort and drown in the turbulent waters of the English Channel. Unscrupulous middlemen provide boats that are far too small to cross the channel even in the best of weather conditions, and the miracle of Dunkirk is not repeated for those whose boats are unable to handle the rough seas or avoid the shipping traffic.
The British government has paid the French government some £54 million to help stanch the flow of migrants. Yet France seems to be unable or unwilling to intervene. French President Emmanuel Macron claims that the French have arrested more than 1,552 human smugglers as well as broken some 44 smuggler networks. If that is so, yet the number of migrants increased in 2021 anyway, this is an indication of the scope of the problem facing Britain.
Most of these migrants are from the Middle East and Africa, and they seek to escape political, economic, and social problems there (“Migrant crisis: Why do so many people head to the UK and where are they coming from?,” Evening Standard, November 26, 2021). The National Audit Office estimates that there are between 600,000 and 1,200,000 migrants currently living in Britain (“Why do migrants cross the Channel to the UK and not stay in France?,” The Times, November 26, 2021). The fact that people have travelled through multiple other countries to reach the shores of Britain rules out the claim to asylum, since asylum could have been claimed in whatever country they first reached.
Some migrants have family ties to current residents. Some choose Britain because their rudimentary understanding of English spares them from having to learn a totally unfamiliar European language. Beyond family ties and language, employment in the UK can be found without the need for the identity documentation required in the European Union.
The prospect of casual employment in the United Kingdom’s market economy, as well as the ease of obtaining government benefits, add to the incentive to emigrate despite the reputed cost of up to £6,000 per person to cross the Channel (“Why record Channel drownings are unlikely to deter migrants,” The Week, November 26, 2021). Though government welfare payments are actually less in Britain than in Europe, the lure of employment makes Britain a prime choice for migrants seeking to create a new life for themselves. Ann Widdecombe, a Home Secretary in prior Tory administrations, noted that British society is the easiest in the Western world into which a migrant can disappear (“Widdecombe lays out list of reasons why asylum seekers prefer UK to France in radio rant,” Express, October 11, 2021).
Britain’s current government was elected to get Brexit done. One of the central elements of that goal was to regain control over Britain’s borders and manage immigration so that employment opportunities in the UK were reserved for UK citizens. But the migrant situation is making a mockery of any such control measures.
Where do we find the basis for the equitable treatment of migrants, some of whom have paid tens of thousands of dollars to “fixers” to enable them to travel just to the far shores of the English Channel—fixers who are going to demand even more to enable them to actually reach their promised land?
God taught the people of ancient Israel to treat strangers with respect, since they had themselves been strangers in Egypt (Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 19:33–34). But strangers were to abide by the law established within Israel rather than bringing their own laws and ideas of worship with them (Leviticus 18:26–29). While there is no record of mass migration then such as we witness today, these ancient conditions were not established just to deal with an occasional individual living among the Israelites. Israel as a nation was warned that, if they failed to obey their God, the stranger among them would rise up and rule over them—indicating that strangers could, in fact, form a sizeable portion of the population (Deuteronomy 28:43–44).
As a descendant of ancient Israel, Britain has for many years pursued policies that have encouraged inward migration, especially from the old Empire and now Commonwealth countries and the EU. With migration has come greater tolerance of religious pluralism, which over time has developed a multicultural society in which Christian values have become ever more marginalized. Today, when all the alternative spellings are added together, Muhammad becomes the most common name for a British boy (“Baby names: Is Muhammad the most popular?,” BBC, September 26, 2018).
We should not be surprised to see a fundamental shift in national values, ways of living, and population—just as God foretold. If you wish to know more about this subject, please request our free publication The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy, or read it online at TomorrowsWorld.org.