15 Sep 2015

Migrants and refugees: does opening door make it better or worse?

With the European “Union” pelting each other over ever more obvious borders, the razor-wire share market in bull mode and Schengen in an induced coma – let us take stock.

Phase One – Aylan

Like Don McCullin’s haunting, awful image of the albino boy years ago in Biafra in the last stages of starvation, you knew where you were when you saw Aylan. You cannot delete.

Hundreds of previously ignored Aylans there were indeed, but this was the moment: cue protests across the continent and welcome parties at airports, stations and frontiers.

The people “power” phase, full of sound and righteous fury, but perhaps signifying little.

Phase Two – The Shutdown

As David Cameron told the British, welcoming people in is simply inviting ever greater numbers. And so it proved. This weekend Germany – yes Germany of the 800,000 Wilkommen – decided Bavaria and Munich were overwhelmed and shut down.

In truth, Denmark started the movement, stating that it could not cope and would clamp down on migrant and refugee benefits and border controls over a week ago. But the German re-imposition of border controls with Austria on Sunday afternoon set a domino shutdown running through Austria, Hungary to Serbia.


The pipe is blocked at Hungary – but still they come. I write from Tripoli in Northern Lebanon where at the very least 1000 Syrians a day leave for Turkey perfectly legally. For Turkey, read EU perfectly illegally.

Phase Three – The Split

Yesterday’s Brussels showdown of EU ministers brought out the Great Euro Divide. The Franco-German plan for a quota system across member states rejected by East European countries.

Poland…Slovakia…Hungary… are they just more racist or are they right or both?

Eastern Europe is overwhelmingly white and Catholic. More so than the west – much more so than the UK, Germany and France.

Not for the east the historic influxes from Pakistan, India and West Indies that the UK has seen. Nor the North African exodus to France of course.

Germany’s recent history spans the spectrum from mass cultural guilt through to constitutional obligations to take people in because of the Nazi years of monocultural experimentation.

Western Europe had the 60s – the east had the Stasi and largely monocultural communist baggage to come through.

All true and all too easy to leap to the conclusion that Eastern Europe is just more racist than the west because it’s less diluted culturally. Could be – but even if it were true it does not get us very far at all.

Look at this weekend’s events and they rather indicate that the eastern states are right on one crucial issue.

Welcome them in and more will come, they say. It is hard to argue that is wrong in the face of the German welcome and then the German shutdown. Few German politicians are talking about the 800,000 this weekend as they were last – they are talking  soldiers, shutting the gates and coping mechanisms.

The eastern Europeans told the Franco-German quota merchants yesterday in Brussels that they need to take people from the Jordanian and Lebanese camps – the Cameron mantra.

Quotas, they say,  are just another form of invitation: more will come, new quotas will be announced and so it will go on.

Taking people from the camps means taking those in the greatest need  and poverty as well as dissuading – perhaps – the hundreds of thousands taking the land route.

So calling the Poles hypocrites who are Islamaphobic , but zoom around the EU themselves for work, won’t get you far whether it’s true or not.

Equally the Austrian chancellor’s disgraceful likening of the Hungarian policy to the Nazis should be challenged.

What matters for making coherent policy is who is right – does opening the door make it better or worse?

Another round of insults about who is racist and who is progressive is achieving nothing at all in the stymied, divided, impotent EU.

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