To write on the issue of the mass migration of displaced persons from conflict zones, in the face of so much that has been written thus far is a task I have really tried to avoid. The issues are so complex, so divisive that almost any view expressed only adds further to the polarisation of attitudes which are becoming increasingly extreme. For me the story of 71 people suffocating to death in a closed and airtight truck has proved to be the tipping point which forces me to write.
Not that I have a solution or even an established viewpoint. Yet I do have an imagination. And so I ask myself, “what would I do in such a situation”? This question is not just hypothetical. At the time of my birth, millions of starving refugees or displaced person; as the euphemism of the time named them, were on the move in Europe. At that time there was both the political will and the infrastructure to resolve the issue since the military governments in control had both the resources and the discipline to manage the crisis. Today there is neither the political will or the civil infrastructure to manage the situation. So I ask myself again, “what would I do”? The answer, not surprisingly, would be “anything to survive and find a better life”. Taking a chance on a rusty ship, or closed truck, even with the risk of death, would be a choice which, in extremis, most would take.
Unfortunately the refugee crisis is not exclusively that of families fleeing war. Intermingled are both young men avoiding military conscription in Eritrea, unemployed from Afghanistan and sub Sahara Africa as well as those persecuted for their sexuality or religious persuation. And to make matters worse, we have no way of knowing whether these claims are true or not for there is widespread belief amount the poorly educated that the streets, not just of London, but Europe in general, are paved with gold. To hear a potential immigrant trying to get to the UK say that when he gets there he will get a nice house and go to Oxford University displays a degree of knowledge only notable for its complete absence. That this belief is fostered by criminal elements charging fees for the illegal journey is clear.
Of course there are those in Europe, though I would imagine not the majority, ask that the borders be opened, the immigrants be welcomed, provided with houses, jobs and the sort of welfare for which the continent is renown. And who would be against it faced with 71 bodies of men, women and children who perished just hoping, struggling for a better life. Yet open borders would not resolve todays crisis of thousands immigrants, it would be the prelude to millions more who, with the certain knowledge of a charitable welcome, would surely follow. I fear the result then would be chaos in which first infrastructure would crumble in the face of overwhelming demand, then strife would which would soon turn to violence.
So how to manage the situation? The first point must be to distinguish between the refugees from conflict and economic migrants. Europe has enough unemployed people and really doesn’t need more. For bona fides refugees however, common humanity dictates that we have to help not just by providing a safe refuge but by positively and actively integrating them into our society if they are looking for permanent settlement, for many might just be looking for a temporary refuge and hope to return to their homes when conditions permit.
What is clear is that in the current state of hysterical crisis very very many fit young men are using the situation to force themselves into Europe. There are many more to follow if our fellow politicians fail to act correctly. Of course they must be fingerprinted and documented. To permit them to merge into the underworld of the black economy is something which should not be permitted.
As a critic of all religions I have a simple principle, judge them not by what they say, judge them by what they do. That these people wish to come to Europe, rejecting sanctuary in Moslem countries is silent testimony to the reality of life in Islam.