The young West African man who had emailed me asking for help was explicit in his response to my question as to why he wanted to come to England; "They will give me money". He made no connection between the 'they' and me, as a taxpayer. England was a place where, if you managed to get in, you would be given money, a flat, healthcare, education and the protection of the State. Was it not true? Members of his extended family, of his group, were already here and sending home money and goods. England was rich. "They will give me money" and, with an eye to acquiring the additional richesse of consumer goods that make the west so attractive a destination, "I will work".
And so several million Africans are moving north on foot, on the back of trucks, on cycles or mopeds. From Niger, Mali, Burkino Faso, the Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria, the Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia. Morocco turns thousands back to Algeria. In Libya alone there are up to 1.5 million irregular immigrants from the south. They are gathering to find a way into Spain or Italy, and from there very often to Calais, and England - the holy grail of an economic migrant.
Tens of thousands have died on the journey; in the Sahara, or at sea, or casually murdered for their cellphone or credits. Another 300 are reported drowned today in an attempt to cross to Lampedusa in open boats. And still they come.
Calais has a backlog of about a thousand. Maybe a hundred more arrive each week, as a hundred manage each week to slip into a truck or bribe the driver to carry them across the channel. Maybe more. Who knows. And through Hull, Felixtowe, Newhaven, Southampton. At every leaky point they come.
The government could do far more, of course. The drift is fuelled by tales of our largesse; if that largesse turned to parsimony, if housing, healthcare, education and welfare were restricted, word would soon travel back to Accra and Bamako. We could fund an advertising campaign in those nations demolishing the myth. We could deport more economic migrants more rapidly; a journey that may have taken them a year or more could be reversed in a flight of a few hours. We could check freight more rigorously. But these measures alone will not stem the human tide moving north into Europe.
The EU's agricultural policies are unashamedly protectionist. To give Bertrand, Cristophe and Adelbert a decent living from their uneconomic crofts we beggar African agriculture and enterprise. The price of Bernard's new Renault is a trail of bleached bones. As the G20 meet this week we will see more protectionism, and not less. Africans will suffer economically very quickly. The migrant tides will grow, and will take increasingly more of our national wealth to turn away. Giving aid to African nations isn't the answer; opening free markets is.