Newspaper headlines: Migrant crisis, Helmand return and last-minute Christmas

Papers offer a range of views about the impact of the million migrants said to have entered the European Union illegally.

The Daily Express says the figures will "heighten fears that migration is spiralling out of control across Europe's borders". It takes issue with the assertion of International Organization for Migration head William Lacy Swing that migration is "inevitable... necessary and... desirable".

"Perhaps Mr Swing would care to visit the hospitals and schools in this country that have been overwhelmed by soaring demand... [The] refusal to recognise that migration has significant downsides has led to ever greater numbers coming to Europe and to Britain," it says.

The Independent accepts there is a "huge diplomatic and political challenge" to integrate new arrivals and keep "sectarian tensions and xenophobia under control". However, it argues: "To many, crossing the million mark is a terrifying sign. To this newspaper - which believes in supporting refugees and migrants - it is a sign that though there is plenty of work to do, hope has been extended to many desperate people. That is something Europe can be proud of."

In the analysis of the Guardian's Alan Travis, however, Britain's approach - taking in the first 1,000 of 20,000 Syrian refugees expected to arrive in the coming five years - has been "deeply unambitious". Meanwhile, he says the EU is "left preparing for a huge movement of refugees in 2016 with divisive plans for a new EU border guard, a 'smart' borders data-tracking system and a 'safe country' list for rapid returns".

It's "illegals" coming to the UK that trouble the Daily Mail, which uses UK Border Agency figures showing officers "foiled 30,629 attempts to cross to Britain illegally between April and July" to calculate that nearly 100,000 people tried to "sneak" into the country in the past year.

And it reports complaints from haulage operators that the lives of lorry drivers are "being put at risk by the rising tide of violence" from migrants camped at Calais who are desperate to cross the Channel. The paper describes drivers "running a daily gauntlet of attacks involving knives, hammers, iron bars, baseball bats and even guns" as people try to force them to let them hide inside their cabs.

Eye-catching headlines

  • "Paper cuts & soup burns... the perils of life as an MP" - the Mirror reports a range of bizarre injuries recorded in the Houses of Parliament
  • "Ron shows Daily Star around £4.8m pad" - the red-top finds it "bizarre" that Real Madrid footballer Ronaldo should have a Buddha statue, porcelain dog and personal Christmas scene in his seven-bedroom mansion
  • "Countryfile more popular than The X Factor" - the Times says tales of sheep dips, lactation curves and hedge laying helped the BBC's rural affairs programme beat the ITV talent show's viewing figures
  • "Expert debunks myth of the tortured artist" - research suggests that - contrary to received wisdom - painters suffering emotional turmoil do not produce their best work, says the Independent

Turkey, or squirrel legs?

Festive help for the hopelessly disorganised arrives courtesy of Harry Wallop, whose Daily Telegraph guide to a "happy last-minute Christmas" offers tips on buying discounted Turkeys on Christmas Eve. To those who run out of time buying presents on the High Street, he advises: "There are subscriptions to magazines and memberships to countless museums - all of which can be booked over the internet, during Midnight Mass, if need be."

"The final resort for the truly desperate is the local garage," he writes, explaining that many stock nice plants and local produce such as artisanal biscuits.

Image copyright Thinkstock

While the Independent is advising gourmands on sourcing and preparing the best smoked salmon for Christmas breakfast, it sends Rachael Pells to tuck into another option for those who leave the shopping too late: roadkill.

Her verdict on the meal cooked by "expert on foraged foods", Arthur Boyt: "Our deer-in-vinegar casserole was strangely gamey and not to my taste, but squirrel legs I could get on with."

Meanwhile, those who've safely pre-ordered their turkey could try an alternative approach tasted by the Daily Star's Robin Cottle at an east London curryhouse. The jalfrezi recipe consists of shredded turkey, mixed peppers, shallots, garlic and chilli, while the restaurant also offers curried Brussels sprouts and parsnips, he says.

What the commentators say

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBroadcaster Eve Pollard and Guardian columnist Hugh Muir join the BBC News Channel to review Wednesday's papers.

Return to Helmand

There is much analysis of the deployment of British military personnel to Afghanistan's Helmand province, where government forces are trying to repel Taliban fighters from the town of Sangin. According to the Daily Mirror, Special Boat Service commandos are helping to direct aerial action.

The Telegraph's Colin Freeman recalls that it was "thanks to air power backup that Western troops nearly always had the upper hand in ground battles in southern Afghanistan" during 13 years of conflict from 2001. "So it is hardly surprising that the ramshackle Afghan National Army, with little in the way of air assets and only basic ground weaponry, is struggling to hold its own," he adds.

Those forces blame their own government for the chaos, according to Independent defence editor Kim Sengupta. "In his first visit to Pakistan the new president [Ashraf Ghani] broke protocol by visiting the hierarchy of the Pakistani army and the secret police, ISI, instead of the elected government.

"Reaching out to the Pakistani military and sidelining his own defence chiefs was supposed to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table and end the violence. Neither has happened," he writes.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images

The Sun urges the British government to step up its action, with use of drones. "The enormous sacrifices made by our troops, not to mention the billions of pounds spent, cannot be allowed to count for nothing... This is no time for squeamishness or doubt. It is a time for us to deal with the Taliban for a second time."

However, Richard Pendlebury, who was reporting from the front line five years ago, disagrees. He recalls in the Daily Mail the "ignominious withdrawal" of British troops from the area after 106 personnel had died, and the subsequent high-casualty US offensive before their troops handed power to Afghan forces.

"My view is that we can do no more for Sangin," he writes. "It is an Afghan problem. Our special forces have been drawn into what is a symbolic battle to save some face after so much British blood was spilt."

In the Guardian, Simon Tisdall sees no clear solution, with the US unable to "escape or escalate" for fear of leaving a power vacuum. Such a situation could quickly see civil war involving government forces, the Taliban, a growing network of Islamic State extremists, forces of feudal chieftains, al-Qaeda, freelance Sunni mafiosi and Tajik militias, he adds.

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