Sark Newspaper 04 January 2019

6 WE MUST SECURE OUR BORDERS NOW Nationally and internationally, the biggest media story this week has been the upsurge in the num- ber of desperate migrants attempting to reach the shores of UK by crossing the English Chan- nel in highly unsuitable small boats. The UK government has gone as far as to deploy the Na- vy to deter an increasing stream of illegal immi- grants, be they economic migrants, refugees or asylum seekers from attempting to reach the country’s shores illegally and, of course, to pre- vent humanitarian disasters. Meanwhile, what is Sark, an Island sitting in the middle of the Channel, doing to protect itself and avert tragedy? Absolutely nothing. Our borders have been unguarded for decades, regardless of the protection against illegal immigrants, terror- ists and common criminals which a Customs post would provide. And regardless of the undeniable economic benefits it would deliver in that law- abiding visitors we need would have the oppor- tunity to travel direct to Sark from the continent of Europe. If there is a contingency plan in place for how to handle the sudden appearance in Sark of a boat- load of huddled, confused and utterly miserable migrants claiming to be Iranian, it is kept secret from the population at large. Meanwhile, what we do know from reliable sources in Guernsey is that the majority of the drugs being sold on the streets of Guernsey have arrived there via Sark. We also know that any prospective terrorist in- tent on inflicting major damage to the British public will be aware that all he or she needs to do to get there undetected is to jump on a sailing boat in France, disembark in Sark and join the group day-trippers who will board the ferry back to Guernsey at the end of the day. Since Sark is part of the Common Travel Area, anyone travelling from Sark has free access to the rest of the Channel Islands as well as the UK beyond with no controls and only the smallest chance of being subjected to a Customs check. Sark’s open borders represent a welcome oppor- tunity for a multitude of illicit activities that put at risk not only Her Majesty’s loyal subjects in Sark but also those of the rest of the Channel Is- lands and mainland UK itself. The benefits of establishing border control in Sark are not limited to matters of security. For the December 2018 elections, only 72% of those listed on the Island’s electoral roll showed up to cast a vote. This record low since 2008 points to the fact that a number of individuals who claim to be Sark residents and Sark voters aren’t here at all. They are ghost residents who maintain an address on the Island to avoid paying tax else- where and rarely spend more than a few days here in a year, contributing nothing to the local economy. A Customs post will be able to moni- tor who comes and goes to establish once and for all who actually lives here and who only pretends to do so to take advantage of the absence of in- come tax and the lack of control of any kind. To assist in determining who is a bona fide resident, we could also issue our own Sark pass- port. If Guernsey can, why can’t we? If stringently con- trolled, it could be the envy of the world and it would reinforce this Island’s status as an inde- pendent and self-governing jurisdiction. The biggest benefit from setting up a Customs post in Sark would, however, be the Island’s deeply depressed economy. It is universally acknowledged that tourism is our main economic driver - that our economy depends on tourism. As made patently clear by the annual Tourism report attached to the agenda for this month’s Christmas meeting of Chief Pleas, visitor num- bers have stagnated and our main industry is increasingly dependent on a moribund market consisting of low-spending day-trippers coming over from Guernsey. Our tourist industry is slowly dying. Four of the Island’s six hotels re-