Germany finally realises we need to STOP the migrant boats in the Med,
IF THERE were a Nobel Prize for naivety, Angela Merkel would have won it last year for her open invitation to migrants to come to Germany.
Anyone who cares for the fate of refugees ought to have seen straight away that her initiative was going to tempt many more migrants to make lethal journeys across the Mediterranean. Already this year 4,000 people have died after being enticed by people smugglers into unseaworthy boats.
This week the German government has belatedly realised that Europe’s handling of the migrant crisis has been costing more lives than it has saved. The interior ministry has called on Brussels to stop ferrying migrants to Europe.
Instead, it says, migrants who have sailed from safe North African countries should be returned to the shores whence they came. Only those who have fled from wartorn Libya should be treated differently and be transferred to refugee camps in Egypt and Tunisia
The ministry said in a statement: “The elimination of the prospect of reaching the European coast could convince migrants to avoid embarking on the life-threatening and costly journey in the first place.” How true and how awful that it has taken so long to realise this truth.
Needless to say, Germany’s Left has already accused the government of callousness. Bernd Riexinger, leader of opposition party Die Linke, called the move: “A humanitarian scandal and a further step toward elimination of the right to asylum.”
Perhaps he would like to explain what is humanitarian about enticing people into making journeys on which so many of them die. Migrants are not to know just how dangerous are the boats they are paying to board.
When they pay their hardgathered money to a people smuggler they have their eyes on a better life in Europe, not on unseen rust-holes below the waterline.
The migrant crisis has been allowed to go uncontrolled for too long
Obviously we should do whatever we can to prevent people drowning and the search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean must continue. But offering migrants a free ferry ride to Italy once they have been saved is just making things worse.
The EU has failed to come up with any coherent policy on migrants and refugees. Only Britain has applied any kind of logic to the problem. While weeping celebrities make us out to be an uncaring nation it is Britain which has put far more money than any other country into the running of refugee camps around the borders of Syria. Trying to deal with refugee problems as close to their source as we can is the right policy.
Other European countries have waited for refugees to come to them. The result is that they only end up helping the stronger and fitter, mostly young male, refugees. And of course they are also taking in huge numbers of economic migrants posing as refugees.
Meanwhile those unable to make long journeys have been forgotten about. Disgracefully last year the UN Food Programme was forced to scale back its campaign to feed Syrian migrants living in camps in the Middle East because they were lacking in donations.
Help should flow to the conflict zones themselves, not our borders
Migrants fighting with wooden planks in Paris
If we want to help the greatest number of people we – and indeed all European countries – should formulate a policy which revolves around dealing with the problem as close as possible to the wars or natural disasters from which people are fleeing.
According to the charity War Child it costs the equivalent of about £25,000 a year to feed, clothe and provide educational opportunities for each Syrian refugee in Germany. By contrast it costs just £2,500 a year to provide the same help in Lebanon.
In other words we can help 10 times as many people for the same price if we rush help to the scene of an emergency rather than waiting for them to come to us.
Cost aside, such a policy helps all refugees, ensures that European generosity is not being exploited by economic migrants and discourages people from making long and dangerous journeys. Of course a refugee camp is far from an ideal environment. Some people with injuries or illnesses need to be given help elsewhere. Too often this only happens when a child has managed to make it on to news bulletins
We should allow opportunities too for students whose studies have been interrupted. In exchange we should expect them to agree to return home once they have completed their qualifications and the crisis is over. They are exactly the people who will be needed to rebuild their home countries.
Sadly it has proved so difficult to come up with lucid policies to help refugees because too much of the debate has been conducted on a purely emotional level.
We became fixated on the erstwhile Jungle camp in Calais and on the migrants plodding through the Balkans because it was easy to beam pictures of them into our homes.
Meanwhile the mass of refugees in Syria – six million of whom have not even made it out of their own country – get overlooked.
The change of heart by the German government marks a promising turn of policy. Let’s hope it now follows it up with the sort of help for refugee camps in the Middle East which Britain has been providing since the beginning of the crisis.