Refugee crisis: squalid posturing, and the farcical EU

This whole wretched refugee crisis has once again exposed the fiction of the EU. The truth is beginning to dawn that giving up control over borders is giving up a large measure of sovereignty, and this is bound to impact on our In/Out referendum

Stand-off at Keleti railway station in Budapest
Robin Mitchinson
On 2 September 2015 08:06

Injecting some sanity into the  illegal immigration crisis is well-overdue. The overriding fact to be faced is that this is much more than an immigration problem.

Around 7,000 unaccompanied refugee children have been picked up by the authorities in Europe. A six-year old boy, whose parents had drowned, was found trying to walk to Germany.

The number of refugees drowned in the Mediterranean will probably never be known, but must run into thousands. Only last week 100 bodies were washed ashore in Libya and many more are unaccounted for. There were 2,500 known deaths so far this year. Thousands have been rescued from the sea, 4.000 on one day last month.

It is a humanitarian catastrophe of Biblical proportions. We have been here before.

The UK accepted thousands of refugees from Europe from 1945. Most eventually returned to their native countries. France took in  100,000 after the end of the war in Vietnam. There was a big hoo-hah about Asians fleeing Idi Amin in the 1970s, but they have been quietly absorbed into Britain.

There was similar disquiet in the UK -- no more than that -- over the Vietnamese ‘boat people’, another group of hard-workers that integrated quickly.

The response of much of Europe has been niggardly: Poland, which was a major source of refugees in the 1930s and after WW2. Hungary, which sent us thousands of refugees in the 1950s, has a negative and racist stance. It is building a 100-mile wall to keep immigrants from crossing via Serbia, maybe taking East Berlin as their precedent. The Baltic states have agreed to take 725 refugees.

Meanwhile Germany is facing an influx of 800,000 in addition to thousands of economic migrants from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia (almost all of whom are sent back but have to be fed and housed during processing).

What is to be done? Our leaders have little idea and certainly no measure of agreement.

The EU proposed farming out the refugees according to quotas based on such factors as GDP, unemployment and numbers already accepted. The UK has an opt-out and Spain and the Eastern Europeans sabotaged the plan.

Common sense says that asylum seekers should be allowed to work. Currently in the UK that is not allowed, so they are kept in enforced idleness at the taxpayers’ expense.

But at the end of the day Europe is going to have to bite the bullet and accept large numbers of  immigrants, mostly Syrians and Eritreans, who classify as war refugees, however politically unpopular this will be at home.

This whole wretched episode has once again exposed the fiction of the EU. ‘Schengen’ is now totally discredited, with even Germany calling for the reinstatement of border controls.

The truth is beginning to dawn that giving up control over borders is giving up a large measure of sovereignty. Brussels is completely at a loss as to how to deal with an influx into  a wealthy and peaceful region with a population of 500 million people.

The issue is not going away any time soon. It will be a major and perhaps deciding factor in the upcoming EU referendum. Already politicians, unsurprisingly led by UKIP, are formulating their strategies.

But what is most needed is statesmanship and leadership, not squalid political posturing.

Don’t hold your breath.

Robin Mitchinson is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former barrister, living in the Isle of Man, he is an international public management specialist with almost two decades of experience in institutional development, decentralisation and democratisation processes. He has advised governments and major international institutions across the world

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