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Europe’s refugee crisis

This article is principally addressed to politicians and those in the West who have been emotionally moved by the TV pictures of the so called ‘refugees’ now arriving in Europe. I must declare an interest: I too was moved by the pictures of the dead child, lying in the gently lapping surf. I did though have a slightly different take on this. Like many people, I was angry. Such a waste of a young life and what a way to die. However, my anger was directed towards the child’s father. Why would this father take his child from the safety of Turkey and risk himself and his family’s lives by taking them on board a flimsy boat, heading in the direction of Greece? I fully understand why the father took his family out of Syria, though since he apparently came from Kobane – which is now controlled by Syrian Kurds – one has to wonder a little. However, this father and his family were safe in Turkey. So why did the father take the risk? Why are all of those politicians who emote so on TV, wringing tears and their hands on rolling news programmes, not asking what caused this man to act as he did?

If the family were genuinely at risk in Turkey then why is this not being addressed? He is a Kurd and Turkey has a long-standing and very active antipathy towards Kurds. Was that his reasoning? I can’t think of any other. If sources are to be believed though, this family had remained in Turkey for some considerable time between fleeing Kobane and then moving on, which raises other questions about the level of fear and its immanency. So why then don’t Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, David Cameron and others punish Turkey for this climate of fear that causes people to flee from a supposedly safe country? Where are the politicians that are condemning Turkey?

Leave aside for a moment Turkey using the guise of attacks against Islamic State to launch brutal attacks on PKK Kurds and Iraqi Kurds who themselves are fighting IS. Where is President Obama taking Turkey to task? Search the internet and see if you can find speeches railing against Turkey’s actions, from any Western leader. So I come back to why the father took the known risk of moving his family out of Turkey and, let’s assume, that he thought it best given the ‘persecution’ in Turkey. Why then not head towards Armenia or Georgia, or take an overland route to Greece? Why not throw themselves on the mercy of Saudi Arabia or the UAE or Qatar – why not invade their embassies in Ankara? These countries share religion and other cultural ties, which would help the family to better assimilate. Of course, there are far less ‘bleeding hearts’ in those countries, which may have coloured his judgement, but surely the safety of his family would come first?

Moving on from this particular family and the tragic outcome of this man’s decision, we then come to the farce that is the European Union. I use the word farce, though in truth there is nothing remotely funny about what is going on (please excuse my use but I cannot think of another that captures the idiocy and hypocrisy that is now on display). The unelected President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, argues that all EU members should take a share of up to 160,000 refugees this year. The quotas would be based on GDP and other arbitrary criteria. Britain, Ireland and Denmark would be exempt from these ‘compulsory’ quotas because they have opt-outs under EU treaties. It is not clear how this number marries up with Angela Merkel’s seeming acceptance of Germany taking in between 800,000 and 1.5 million refugees this year. Frau Merkel ‘s decision has been likened on Twitter to those naïve teenagers who put a note on social media saying ‘party at my house’ and then are shocked to see that in addition to those they want to attend, they find their parent’s house being overrun by ‘gate crashers’ and being trashed by these people.

What seemed at first like a good idea shows in the cold light of morning a harsh reality. This though is a reality that has far and deep consequences for the whole of Europe. These ‘refugees’ are not some kind of homogenous group, fleeing war in Syria. As others have said, included under this umbrella are economic migrants. Also, we can clearly expect that terrorist organisations including IS will use this opportunity to infiltrate murderers into our midst.

Worryingly, these ‘refugees’ all seem to seek residency. That is, they want to become permanent residents. The assumption must be that were peace to suddenly descend upon Syria, they would not return. Once they get into Europe, they stay in Europe. And why wouldn’t they? It isn’t as if, like with prior migrations, they are obliged to assimilate. They can maintain, indeed, they are very actively and positively encouraged to maintain, their own separate cultural identity. So they have many of the ‘benefits’ of their homeland, none of the drawbacks and they enjoy the fruits of a much better economic position. Why would they ever return?

And this does affect all of the EU countries. Once these ‘refugees’ become citizens of Germany, they have completely free movement and can go and work and live in any member state. They can also claim welfare benefits just as if they were a local national resident. Europeans, including countries like the UK, should not be relaxed about this. Just because they are not opening their flood gates to a new wave of immigrants (some would say they are already wide open, anyway!) does not mean they will not be affected. They will. Denmark can close it’s rail links with Germany, in an effort to stop the tide but like that old Viking, King Cnut, they are wasting their time. Europe’s people need to stop and think.

People that never have to live with or be exposed to the consequences of their actions, on a day to day basis, are making these decisions. I have a proposal for any of those media people or fools who say that they will take in a refugee family however. Will you do so on the basis that you personally accept full economic responsibility for these people and all of their offspring, in perpetuity? You will continue to house them, feed them, pay for schooling for them, pay for medical care for them and so on and on? Not just today or tomorrow but for ever? If not, why should any taxpayer accept such responsibility so that you can salve your conscience and feel good at the next meeting of friends?

Can you look your children in the eye and convince them that their economic future will not be threatened by you taking on the economic burden of another family? Of course, the reality is that caring for these refugees is about more than just passing over last season’s coats or putting a temporary roof over the head of a refugee family. This is a long term undertaking. Individual people doing this are grossly irresponsible. They know that their involvement will always be short term. They know that the burden, the true burden will be borne by the taxpayer and society at large. What is there to suggest that these refugees have the economic resources to house and feed themselves in the host country? What is there to suggest that these people, many coming from an agricultural background, will find work? Indeed, in a Europe that has very poor or non-existent economic growth, where are the jobs to come from? Juncker’s afore-mentioned plan calls for Spain to take a large part of the 160,000 compulsory quota. Spain with youth unemployment at almost 50%! What is there to suggest that these people can pay for healthcare for themselves and their family? Or for education?

Consider Britain (though most other countries would be equally applicable). Does anyone believe that Britain has spare social housing? Has, even with a growing economy, many spare jobs (particularly in the agricultural sector). That the NHS isn’t already stretched and that schools have lots of free places? The reality is that any housing for these refugees will come from the private sector and will be funded by the taxpayer. The reality is that these refugees will not be able to find work or, if they do, will displace local nationals and so welfare payments will increase. The reality is that the NHS will become more and more of a failure because it simply can’t cope. The reality is that school class sizes will be increased and education outcomes will suffer.

So I ask my readers, when you see the heart-string tugging pictures on TV or hear people prattling on about ‘we need to do something’ ask them how much they are prepared to pay and how much they are prepared to give-up. There was a very successful campaign against people giving a dog as a Christmas present. The tag line was ‘A dog is for life not just for Christmas’ The way we now act, the phrase could be changed to ‘A refugee is for life not just for Christmas!’

About Tom O'Brien

Profile photo of Tom O'Brien
Tom is an English Conservative Christian currently working as a Finance Manager in Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq. When not in Iraq, his home is in Grantham, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom; also the hometown of Margaret Thatcher.

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