Saturday, 28 May 2016
This is not a migrant crisis
"This is not a migrant crisis" is the headline of a double-page spread in the latest magazine of Global Justice Now, formerly the World Development Movement, of which I've been a member and supporter since its inception some forty years ago. The front cover of the magazine has a picture of the white cliffs of Dover with the slogan "# REFUGEES WELCOME" projected on them.
The double page spread argues that the genuine crises are: of war, of resource exploitation, of inequality, and of climate change.
Leaving the European Union will not solve any of these.
Indeed it is doubtful if leaving the EU will actually make much difference to migration into the UK either. As explained in an earlier post, those countries with access to the single market, such as Norway and Switzerland, have to accept the EU policy of freedom of movement. It is highly unlikely that the UK would, after leaving, be given more favourable terms. And we are already in control our borders for immigration from the rest of the world - or would be if Border Force UK were properly staffed, rather than starved of resources as part of the mistaken cuts in public expenditure.
So the main plank of the Brexit campaign, if not actually based on a lie, is at best based on very optimistic speculation on the terms of a post-Brexit deal for which there is little evidence.
But beyond the EU debate a rich, well educated and mature country such as ours should be both capable of facing the facts and playing a constructive part in trying to solve the real crises enumerated above. Rather than pulling up the drawbridge to tackle the symptom of these crises we should be devoting our energies, in partnership with others, to solving them. Here Britain's achievement of reaching the target of 0.7% of GDP to be spent on reducing inequality between nations is something to be celebrated rather than resented. More sincere efforts towards the use of renewable rather than finite energy resources would be welcome, along with co-operative efforts to tackle climate change and diplomatic efforts to solve the causes of war and limit the trade in armaments.
Even if and when the severity of these crises is reduced, and that won't be overnight, people will still want to move. We have to recognise that modern communications and relatively cheap travel mean that the world is now the oyster for the many, and not just the privileged in developed countries. Maybe Global Justice Now's enthusiastic embrace of the future is rather too "raw meat" for the electorate to swallow, but it is the direction in which our politicians should be leading us, rather than cravenly trying to appeal to the baser "what we have we hold" instinct which so shames us a present.
Post script (added 4th June, 2016) There is an excellent article on the refugee crisis by Giles Fraser in yesterday's Guardian. It should be posted on every hoarding in the land.