By the end of 2014 there were 19.5 million people classed as refugees worldwide and the situation has gotten worse. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in the first two months of 2016, 131,724 refugees began the journey to Europe. 410 never arrived. 55% of those arriving from war-torn Syria are women and children. They are not looking to take your job, benefits or destroy British culture, they simply want a safe, warm bed. Too much to ask?
Lets start by explaining who these people are. To quote the UNHCR, refugees ‘have to move if they are to save their lives or preserve their freedom. They have no protection from their own state – indeed it is often their own government that is threatening to persecute them. If other countries do not let them in, and do not help them once they are in, then they may be condemning them to death – or to an intolerable life in the shadows, without sustenance and without rights.’ This therefore shows that if someone such as President Assad in Syria is bombing your house, you have a right to ask for international protection. It’s that simple.
Economic migrants however are people who ‘choose to move in order to improve the future prospects of themselves and their families.’ I don’t dispute there is a small minority of economic migrants who are taking advantage of the mass movement of people into Europe, but they should not stop the overwhelming majority from reaching safety and comfort and should be picked up by the appropriate authority once we sort this mess out. But we, the European Union, should not use them as an excuse to block the boarders to some of the worst off in the world.
These people need help but the response has been shameful. In 2015 rescue efforts for refugees in danger at sea were stopped to prevent more taking the perilous journey. The amount of people taking the journey increased by 1000. The idea that by keeping these people out helps anyone is deeply flawed.
The UK is also not taking part in the EU reallocation program because it doesn’t wish to advocate taking a life risking journey by boat. Instead Syrians should stay at home and dodge the bombs or seek accommodation in an overcrowded Syrian refugee camp. And the response of the EU states who are taking part in the program has been almost as negligible, with only 325 actual people being moved, out of the 66,400 refugees whom were pledged to be reallocated.
Many people put forward the argument that the UK is full and would burst if another pair of feet were placed upon it. In short, this isn’t true. In fact, the number of refugees in the UK has fallen by 76,000 since 2011 (as reported by The Guardian). And the UK had only accepted 25,000 refugees in the year ending June 2015. The UK is also lacking compared to other EU states, for example, Britain has 55 asylum applications per 100,000 people compared to the EU average of 255. It is clear we could do more.
The Calais ‘Jungle’ seems to be a big issue to many living in Britain and France, in fact it was even used as a scaremongering tactic in regards to the EU referendum, with the remain campaign suggesting a leave vote could let this so called ‘mass of people’ through the tunnel, to their first benefit payment. But the fact remains that put into context, the 4,000 people reported by The Independent to be in residence in the camp is tiny. Just one migrant for every 16,025 people in the UK. Their collective benefit pay out of £36.95 per week adds up to around £7.5 Million per year or half of Wayne Rooney’s yearly pay check.
The decisions made over the migrant crisis come down to a personal level. Can your conscience afford to not help these people? Most member states of the EU appear to have made the choice that they can live with turning a blind eye, in the hopes the people displaced by their bombing will go away, but sadly it will not work, and millions will suffer while this humanitarian disaster drags on. The answer seems to be a simple idea, bring down the boarders of Europe and help refugees find a safe home until they can return to their native country. It’s a very basic plan and many would oppose that plan, but I am opposed to seeing a drowned child on the front pages of newspapers, because his parents chose to escape bombing.
This should not be happening.