Wednesday 9 September 2015

Let's sort out our own problems before we start trying to sort out other peoples'

I've been challenged by a Labour supporting friend to make my views on Syria public in the hope that I'll be denounced as something unspeakable - probably a racist or a xenophobe as is the wont of those on the left - and so that when people vote for me in the next election in 2019 they will know "exactly what I stand for".

I am opposed to the EU policy of not turning back boat loads of illegal immigrants and instead helping them get to Europe. I am opposed to the reckless attitude of the Germans who seem determined to bring half of the Middle East to Europe to work in their factories without a care as to the impact on the rest of the continent. I am opposed to the selfish, politically and economically motivated propaganda campaign the media are running which is presenting an absolutely distorted view of what is happening around the Mediterranean. I am opposed to the response of the British government - and in particular, David Cameron - to the media propaganda campaign. I want the father of the boy who was found washed up on a beach in Turkey to be arrested and charged with reckless endangerment for putting his wife and children in danger unnecessarily with the consequence that they all died. I want the British government to sort out the homeless and hungry people who already live here before taking tens of thousands of people we can't afford to feed and house from another country.

A year or so ago there were relatively few boatloads of people trying to get from Africa or the Middle East to Europe. There has always been a problem with people trafficking across the Mediterranean and the activity has increased with the conflicts arising out of the Arab Spring but nothing on the scale that we're seeing now. The various coastguard services would intercept boatloads of illegal immigrants and tow them back into the waters of the country they came from, discouraging more people from making the same dangerous journey. There were a couple of incidents where overloaded boats sank and some people drowned so the EU, at the behest of the Germans far away from the problem, decided that its common approach to illegal immigration across the Mediterranean would be to send the coastguard to tow the boats to Europe or unload the boats and ferry the passengers to the mainland if they were overloaded. The people traffickers charging up to $10,000 per person to smuggle them into Europe must have thought Ramadan had come early - now they could not only promise to get their victims to Europe but they could promise them that a welcoming party would come to bring them to safety. Suddenly the trickle of refugees became a river of illegal economic migrants making their way to Europe not for safety but for economic reasons and the genuine refugees have been lost amongst them.

Germany is suffering from labour shortages and a new law making it easier for immigrants to live and work in Germany was mooted earlier in the year. Germany wants mass immigration and they don't care about the impact on the countries that are having to deal with the mass influx of people. In fact, the economic impact on the Mediterranean states actually works in Germany's favour, helping to cement German hegemony over the rest of the Europe.

The media have run a selfish and cynical propaganda campaign motivated mainly by the desire to sell more newspapers or gain extra viewers and in some cases such as the Guardian, Independent and Huffington Post, to further a political agenda. They have bombarded us with pictures of women, children and families in distress but rarely show pictures of hundreds or thousands of the young, single men who make up the majority of the people trying to get to Europe. Pictures of families in distress sell papers, pictures of thousands of young, fit men less so. Their actions have directly affected government policy by manipulating public opinion and using it to shame politicians into doing something - anything - just to be seen to be "doing something".

Forced to be seen to be "doing something" for the baying media, David Cameron has announced that the UK will take 20,000 people from Syria over the next 4 and a half years. They won't be allowed to work, they'll be provided with houses, they will get free health care and education and they will receive benefits. There are an estimated 185,000 homeless people already living in the UK, of which around 9,000 are ex-Forces and more than half are under 25. They're not a priority. Neither are people living in England with cancer who now have 23 fewer treatments available to them after the British government just announced that it is cutting funding for the English cancer fund by £100m. Coincidentally, the British government is throwing £100m at Syria in an attempt to be seen to be "doing something". Clearly the decision was made to cut the English cancer fund some time ago and isn't a direct response to Syria but if £100m can be found to be spent on who knows what in Syria, it could have been found to spend on cancer treatments in England? Like the rest of the International Aid budget, the British government has little or no idea what most of the money is going to be spent on or what the outcomes are expected to be.

Now for the boy who was found washed up on a Turkish beach, pictures of which were the straw that broke the camel's back and prompted the UK and other EU countries to throw open their borders and allow tens of thousands of mainly economic illegal immigrants to travel wherever they please. I saw the picture of the boy's body being carried up the beach and of course it made me sad. Anyone who wasn't moved by the image clearly has some emotional dysfunction. But as the story unfolded it made me angry because while the picture of the boy was used by the media to demand that the government "do something" they were less keen to tell people the circumstances behind his death. A Sky News interview with the family's relatives in Canada revealed that the boy's father had decided to come to Europe because he wanted dental implants. They could only send him the $14,000 it was going to cost to get it done in Turkey $1,000 at a time and he didn't want to wait so acting on their advice he piled his family onto an overloaded boat to try and smuggle themselves into Europe. It then transpired that rather than fleeing Syria for their safety as refugees, they'd already left Syria three years ago and had been living in Turkey. They weren't coming to Europe as refugees, they were coming as economic migrants and health tourists. On that totally unnecessary journey, the man's two sons and wife all died. He says he blames himself and so do I. He recklessly endangered his family's lives not for safety (which they already had in Turkey) but for personal and economic reasons. I want him arrested and charged with reckless endangerment and the manslaughter of his children.

Throwing money at Syria isn't going to solve anything. They don't need money, they need to stop risking their lives trying to come to Europe and they need to stop making people traffickers millionaires in the process. The Persian Gulf is full of stable, prosperous countries who have done nothing to help their neighbours in Syria or Iraq. The Gulf states are still importing tens of thousands of immigrants from India and beyond to work because they have more jobs than people but they refuse to take in their Arab neighbours. The solution is there, not in Europe where 23m people are unemployed, 4m are homeless and half of the continent is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. We can't afford to house and look after 20,000 refugees and economic migrants, nor can we afford to take the risk of freely admitting terrorists into the country posing as refugees. ISIS have bragged of smuggling 4,000 terrorists into Europe alongside refugees. It is almost certainly bravado and propaganda to claim such high numbers but if just 1% of what they claim have made it to Europe that's 40 new trained terrorists on the continent. A couple of wanted terrorists have already been found posing as refugees this year and arrested, the terrorist threat isn't just idle speculation.

We should continue to grant asylum to genuine refugees who make it to the UK legally (ie. not via a number of safe countries in defiance of international law) and to bring over some of the refugees from UN refugee camps in Syria but nothing like the numbers David Cameron has announced today. If we are to avoid the ghettoisation of the immigrant Syrian population in the UK then it needs to be on a scale that can assimilated by the communities they live in. We have a part to play in solving the problem but it's a bit part, not the main event.