We’re a day late with this week’s Roundtable, where our pool of contributors tackle the topical question of the so-called ‘Migrant Crisis.’ As ever, we’re keen to hear your thoughts so please make yourself heard in the comments!
“How would you solve Europe’s migrant crisis?”
Louise Wilson – This question comes from the assumption that there is a migrant crisis. There isn’t. Using such language and telling people that they’re under threat from migrants is unhelpful. It dehumanised people – and worse, it dehumanises them at the time they need compassion the most. These people have fled their homelands from war, from persecution, from unbearable conditions, crossing the Mediterranean and much of Europe searching for hope. Only to be met by the language of ‘swarms’ and ‘floods’. That is no way to treat anyone.
I’m going to instead suggest something that might seem a little ‘out there’. How about we give migrants security and opportunity. How about we respond positively to their hope. Whilst the media is tripping over itself to highlight the millions of migrants waiting at the gates of Europe, look at the actual numbers. The latest stats from the European Commission suggest 1.7 million people from outwith the EU migrated here in 2013. Compare that with total EU population, that is 0.34% – hardly at crisis point. And besides, not everyone that makes up the 1.7m will be the type of migrant Western media fears (i.e. not from war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa).
Surely Europe as a whole could be working together to help real, living people – not worrying about how their being here might effect our rather privileged way of life. This might be temporary help or a more long-term solution depending on each individual, but nevertheless support should be available. And whilst I’m a little reluctant to suggest this last solution – given the West’s record in the past – Europe should also be extending the hand of friendship to the countries that are struggling, the countries from which people are fleeing. Because not everyone coming to Europe is doing so out of choice, but out of necessity.
Alasdair Duke – I am troubled by many aspects of the so-called ‘migrant crisis’ in Europe.
Firstly, the crisis, such as it is, is not caused by migrants. If this is to be called a crisis at all, it should be called a crisis of social responsibility. The crisis is caused by lack of preparedness on the part of European nations for the inevitable consequences of their military adventures; and it is Europe’s responsibility to fix it.
Secondly, the numbers of people coming to Europe are manageable. Lebanon, a country with the same population as Scotland but with far less land, is currently hosting with over a million refugees. The whole of the EU is being visited by a number in the very low millions. I would reallocate a fraction of each EU country’s military budget towards accommodation, financial support and of course, social support, by which I mean supports such as translators and cultural facilitators to help ease people into the bosom of the places they are visiting. Europe can well afford to do this.
Thirdly, I would put an end to the NIMBYism of northern European nations, particularly Britain but also Germany, in (believe it or not) ignoring the issue. While we in Britain have become exercised by five thousand migrants at Calais, they are not the issue.
The issue is millions of refugees across the world, of whom hundreds of thousands, or more, are in the ports of cities around the Mediterranean right now. Britain and Germany are acting abhorrently to hinder these people, by sending their police officers south to physically prevent refugees boarding trains to travel north. Britain and Germany should divert their resources and their efforts to supporting the cities and towns around the Mediterranean, where the pressure is on, and to offering a far greater number of refugees sanctuary within their own borders.
Fourthly, I would legislate to ensure that humane treatment of refugees be factored in to the budget and remit of the UK’s foreign policy. If we spend billions on weapons (and we shouldn’t), then we should set aside at least the same amount again for reparations, in one way or another, to stem the human misery that our weapons inevitably create.
Lastly, I would leave the lorries on the M20. If we are serious about tackling climate change then we need to reduce fossil fuel-based transport, and that means closing motorways and reducing road freight.
Alan Stares – Shoot them. Wait I’m not a Tory!
It’s a hard one, if we’re talking migration in the massive numbers sense throughout Europe in the respect of refugees as opposed to our own wee ‘problem’ as Cameron puts it of small (competitively) numbers of immigration then it’s really Europe’s own fault for being a bunch of uncaring arseholes as are our own ratbags of a government.
It’s a big place and each country would do well to volunteer to take some of the people rather than them gathering in one or two big spots and if Europe is as united a place as they would have us believe then it wouldn’t be a problem but as usual people in Europe and in the world are the best Facebook gladiators ever, fighting for clickable causes until one day a smelly tramp sits on their doorstep and then the mood swiftly changes.
Take financial leeches and nuclear arms (War altogether for that matter) out and there would be no problem in providing for these people comfortably but why help your fellow man when it’s easier to be a complete prick!
Anna Crow – As I see it, the real crisis is really the creeping rise of bigotry and fascism both in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. This is so evident in terms of mainstream media portrayal of the so-called migrant crisis – where the situations regarding the Channel tunnel or the Greek Islands for example are likely to be reported in terms of impinging on a rights of a privileged group getting to enjoy their planned holiday, rather than a focus on the basic human rights of people who are trying to escape threats to their and their families’ existence and are still struggling to survive. It is also worryingly evident in the language used by our own politicians – David Cameron referred to these people as a ‘swarm’; our own prime minister is referring to people in a way that is completely dehumanising. This is utterly unacceptable.
Through this bombardment of bigoted right-wing ideology, people in the UK are being taught to view migrants as a threat. At the same time other marginalised groups such as benefit-claimants, those with mental health problems and the disabled are also being targeted and demonised – not just in rhetoric used in the mainstream media or by any elected members of government, but in government legalisation such as the ongoing and worsening benefit cuts in the name of austerity. The current situation, particularly regarding the issue of immigration has very frightening parallels with the rise of fascism in Germany in advance of the Second World War. Recently I read an article in which was reported that as an experiment someone replied on the comments thread of Daily Mail articles regarding immigration with quotes from Nazi texts, Adolf Hitler etc, substituting “Jews” with “immigrants” and startlingly numbers showed agreement with the statements expressed.
A multi-faceted approach is needed to tackle the growing problems here. It should be clear that above all else, a focus on the protection of the basic human rights of people is needed. The UK is one of the richest countries in the world. It has the capacity to open its borders to more migrants and to offer asylum to many more people than it currently does – when you view statistics regarding numbers of asylum seekers and economic migrants in the UK compared to other countries in Europe and further afield, you will see that the numbers here are comparatively low. Moreover, UK laws which allow indefinite detention of asylum seekers are inhumane and unacceptable, as are other areas of current UK immigration law.
Education of the UK general public is needed so their actions, words and beliefs will be shaped by facts rather than biased, inaccurate and dangerous ideology. Empowering people in this way enables us to put more pressure on our current government. It also gives us the best chance of electing in the future those who believe in the common good – who stand up for the human rights of all people, and whose focus is on peacekeeping rather than dragging this country into yet another illegal war – specifically, those who may tackle the problems behind this such as the UK’s vast arms exports – as well as challenging other significant issues here, for example, that of the right wing control of UK mainstream media.
Chris Napier – Europe is undergoing the most significant episode of mass migration since the second world war and arguably the most significant INWARD migration in hundreds of years – possibly since the end of the Roman Empire. Whether this is a crisis is entirely a matter of perception and how we choose to handle it.
Mass migration is invariably caused by factors which make the migrant’s homelands unappealing, the most common factor being war and the related issues of oppression, famine and disease (although the latter two can also be caused by climate change and the destruction of once viable areas, which is a growing issue, especially in Africa.)
As human beings, compassion should dictate that we instinctively care for our fellow humans displaced by such tragic events but in light of the media casting these events as a ‘crisis’ and the poor souls involved as a ‘swarm’ with all the connotations of an invasive parasite, it’s clear that we cannot call on compassion alone to address the situation.
The vast majority of the migrants gathering at Europe’s fringes – and the numbers backing up in Italy, Greece and Turkey are several orders of magnitude higher than those who ever make it to northern Europe – are fleeing the after effects of the West’s dubious adventures in trying to influence regime change in North Africa, Syria and Iraq. Like it or not, but we are directly responsible for the rise of ISIS and the forced displacement of these people and have a responsibility to respond to their plight, and not with bombs.
Furthermore, even a cursory look at Europe’s demographics shows that we sorely need a population injection. Almost every nation in Europe has an ageing, shrinking population, with the proportion of elderly people to working (tax paying) people getting higher all the time, meaning an influx of working age or youthful blood is necessary to ensure our societies and economies do not topple under the weight of an increasingly aged population.
Europe should welcome these migrants, firstly because it’s the right thing to do, out of compassion and a sense of responsibility and also to allow them to energise our demographics and save our economies in the mid to long term.
The West should also take some responsibility for the carnage our military adventures have left in their wake, both by assisting in rebuilding the nations we have bombed into rubble (without attempting to exploit or oppress them) and by helping ti accommodate those displaced by these troubles.
Arrogant isolationism will lead to a stagnant society, an ageing population and eventually being surrounded by hostile, jealous enemies. Only the compassionate long view will suffice.
Photo credit – Photograph: Daniel Etter/New York Times / Redux / eye vine from the Guardian.
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