Why would you risk your life to get out of France? I can think a few reasons not to want to live there. Paris truly has the rainy weather that London is wrongly reputed to have. The cuisine has been coasting on its reputation for decades. Wine-lists are unbelievably parochial, which is fine if you happen to be in Burgundy, but rather a bore in Provence. Still, fleeing across the English Channel in a clandestine dinghy seems an extreme reaction. 

“I would rather die at sea than go back” said one of the men attempting the crossing this week. Seriously? Rather die than go back to France? But we keep being told that Brexit Britain is intolerant, while goody-goody France is led by globalist poster-boy Emmanuel Macron. Can it really be that Britain is the more welcoming nation? 

“We have a duty to reach out the hand of humanity, support and friendship to people who are in danger,” says the Labor leader, Jeremy Corbyn. So, despite everything he has been saying until now, the Leftist agitator now thinks that Austerity Britain is safer than social-democratic France. Hmmm. 

Some 300 men — they are almost all men, and seem to be mainly from Iran — have tried to reach Britain in small boats since November. That number is not large when we consider that around 7,500 people claimed asylum in the UK during the same period. Still, dinghies make good photographs, and news is slow at this time of year, so British tabloids were quick to proclaim a “crisis.” The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, preposterously criticized for being on vacation in South Africa, flew home early to deal with it. 

Immigration makes all sides irrational. To redeploy Royal Navy vessels to the Channel, as Britain is now doing at a cost of $25,000 a day, is an absurd over-reaction. If the UK truly wanted to reduce illegal immigration, it would spend an equivalent sum of money on ensuring that deportation orders were properly enforced. But human beings have Paleolithic brains. The idea of another tribe moving into our territory triggers responses that have little to do with numbers or statistics. 

Every bit as irrational is the reaction of the virtue-signaling Left. Most of us agree that a measure of controlled and legal immigration can benefit a country. Left-wingers are perfectly within their rights to argue that immigration policy should be guided by compassion rather than GDP growth — that we should, in other words, count poverty and desperation as qualifications rather than just economic utility. But how, on those grounds, can you possibly justify a system that allows a handful of would-be settlers to jump the queue by paying people-smugglers? 

If anything, the Channel crossing belongs in a Darwinian science-fiction novel. Some futuristic dystopian state might seek to improve its genetic stock by closing its borders, knowing that only the shrewdest, hardiest and most determined migrants would attempt the sea journey. How have progressives now come, in effect if not in intention, to support such a policy? How have they reached the point where they want to contract out immigration policy to criminal gangs? 

The answer, I suspect, has to do with changes on the Left since the late 1960s — in particular the elevation of anti-racism as the supreme virtue, the card that trumps feminism, free speech, secularism and everything else. There are people in Britain, as in the United States, who struggle to see past the color of the would-be migrants’ skins. A few of these people are white supremacists. Many more are well-meaning liberals who are so determined not to give succor to racists that they end up backing idiotic policies from a tribalism of their own. In Britain, this means agitating to admit the boat people. In the United States, it means arguing that a gang of Hondurans who pitch up at the border should be allowed to elbow aside those who have applied properly and legally. 

People-smuggling is a huge industry, and it grows larger every day. Rising aspirations and improved technology — notably smartphones with both a GPS function and the ability to transfer credit — are triggering mass movements of peoples. Wealthy countries need to work out how to deal with migratory pressures never before encountered in peace-time. 

They need to accept that human institutions are necessarily imperfect and that, under any conceivable system, some rogues will get in while some deserving applicants are kept out. That is not an argument for abandoning all your rules. On the contrary, it is an argument for enforcing them properly.