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10 August 2015

Philip Hammond says that economic inequality causes migration. So why isn’t he a bigger supporter of development?

If the gap between Africa and Europe is what powers migration, then why is Britain's Foreign Secretary agnostic on foreign aid?

By Stephen Bush

Philip Hammond has caused a furore with his remarks ab0ut migrants from Africa to Europe. His description of migrants “marauding” – invoking theft, pillage and other violent activity – is quite rightly being criticised. But the remarks are also inconsistent with Hammond’s analysis of the global situation more generally.

“The gap in standards of living between Europe and Africa means there will always be millions of Africans with the economic motivation to try to get to Europe. So long as there are large numbers of pretty desperate migrants marauding around the area, there always will be a threat to the tunnel security [around Calas]. We’ve got to resolve this problem ultimately by being able to return those who are not entitled to claim asylum back to their countries of origin.”

Hammond takes a similar line that the International Development Secretary, the underrated Justine Greening, has taken to build support for foreign aid. She argues that the cause of migration, and global terror, is instability and lack of opportunity in the global South. Foreign aid isn’t just about salving your conscience, Greening has long argued, but an issue of global security and stability.

But that’s not Hammond’s solution. His is just to increase the ability of the Britsh government to return migrants from whence they came, and has described plans to enshrine the 0.7 per cent target in law as “a bizarre idea”. He’s especially sceptical about the aspect of aid funding that directly addresses what he sees as the major “pull factor” to Europe: the gap in the standard of living. In the same interview, he said this:

I’ve never detected in Britain at all people saying we shouldn’t be sending food aid or disaster relief or earthquake relief. It’s never been that bit of the programme. It’s been the, ‘We’ll invest over two decades in education in India, economic development in East Africa’. It’s that bit of it that people sometimes question. But I’m sure the British people always feel very well-disposed to the disaster relief.”

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If the Foreign Secretary believes that low living standards are driving migration, why isn’t he a more forceful advocate for the measures designed to stop it?