Through National Papers, PMQs and even the State of the European Union, the so called ‘migrant crisis’ has been talked about to death, yet very little has been done so far. Now I could go on and on about how more must be done, but the fact is that it has already been done so by smarter individuals than I. Instead I want to write about the rhetoric that has been used so far and how it’s influenced our policies for the worse.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that we were in the midst of some sort of zombie apocalypse scenario, given some of the language used by the mainstream media – notably ‘Swarms’, ‘Hordes’ and ‘Waves’. This is not language used to describe humans, in fact it’s language that is designed to dehumanise those who are fleeing a genuine threat. Perhaps the word we should be using is ‘individual’. They all have their own stories and own reasons for fleeing.
Yet the response to this crisis has been equally as negative as the spin that the media have put on it. I was on the EuroStar to Brussels last week, which of course runs through the Channel Tunnel. It was as the train pulled out of the Calais end of the Channel that I suddenly felt very uncomfortable. On either side of the tracks, being quickly erected by railway maintenance men, was a large metal fence with razor wire on the top. Walking between the lines of wire and fences were armed men with guard dogs. I had to remind myself that this was France in 2015, and that I hadn’t somehow found my way into 1950s East Germany. This is apparently the best that the Governments of the EU could do to respond to the crisis, at least until a few days later when the world’s headlines were dominated by a picture of a dead child.
The key distinction that must also be made by politicians and the media is that of those who are on their way to Britain as ‘economic migrants’, and those who are coming as ‘refugees’. The fact is that there is a distinction that has to be made. The economic migrants are, by and large, coming from countries that aren’t affected by war or oppressive regimes. The refugees, on the other hand, have genuine reason to flee. They are running from the tyranny of the Islamic State and the Assad regime. Some may argue that this was a crisis of our own making.
So what can be done? Well, I know that I said that I wasn’t going to try and offer an overarching solution; if I could I would. Instead, I want to try and urge governments to try and stop the boats by cutting off the smugglers’ market share. The smugglers are simply offering a solution to a demand. The demand is to leave the region, and so people go to the smugglers to achieve that. If Western governments were to go to these refugee camps and take the people from there to safe havens, then the boats would have to stop.
So where do we put them, I hear you ask. Well, we’ve dealt with crises like these before. During World War Two we took in refugees, during the reign of Idi Amin we took in refugees; even as far back as the Napoleonic Era we took in refugees. We’ve done it before and we can do it again. There’s also no reason why we can’t stand to gain from these refugees. If we move them to areas of the UK that need a boost we could potentially revitalise these areas, and help create more jobs. There is no reason why these people can’t help us by helping them.
I suppose I’m going to be written off as some sort of idealist for being so open on the issue, but then again I can’t help but remember a verse from the poem by Emma Lazarus, ‘The new Colossus’.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
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