Do European countries have a duty to accept the current influx of migrants?
Ben Oldfield and Adam Hilsenrath
YES – Ben Oldfield
The refugee crisis – and I refer to it so, for when talking of the current “influx of migrants”, it must be stressed that many those in question are not just economic migrants but refugees – has been going on long enough for it to be clear that it is simply not going to resolve itself. Whether we like it or not, we Europeans must admit that something has to be done. So long as the countries from which these refugees are coming are rendered inhospitable by war, they will continue to flee in great numbers.
Of course, the solution lies far deeper than simply accommodating refugees as they arrive; the ultimate goal must be to end the conflicts responsible for displacing so many. That said, this goal is still far out of sight; a menacing Russia now looms over Syria, and the situation in the Middle East shows no signs of calming. Correspondingly, we can expect no sign of calming in the influx of refugees, and while this continues, European countries have a duty to accept it.
It is a shameless argument to claim that, by refusing to do so, we will deter further refugees from attempting the perilous journey themselves, and are therefore acting in their best interests. If you disagree that they should be accepted, at least consider the facts and be honest about the conclusions they entail. Given the events of the past year or so, migrants will be well aware of the risks they run in attempting the journey to safety; clearly
these are risks they are willing to take. Whatever their prospects in their home country are, they are less than those entailed by a journey across the Mediterranean in a rickety boat. Considering the obstacles that already stand along the way of the refugee, the suggestion that a closed border will be the final straw to deter them from making the journey is nothing but laughable.
If this does not convince you as a rational argument, it must at least appeal to your emotions. The refugees coming to Europe are putting their life on the line to do so – there is no greater sacrifice than that. It takes a gravely calloused mind to send people back to a situation that drove them to such lengths.
It has been suggested that European countries seem to care disproportionately more about the refugees than about local issues such as homelessness, which involve their own fair share of human suffering. This pitting of one group against another is a false dichotomy. Helping those of our own country and helping those from elsewhere are not mutually exclusive activities and, whether or not the saying is even true, charity beginning at home does not entail that it should also end there.
The crisis will never be easy to solve – that is why it is called a crisis – and those suffering in it cannot be swept under the rug. My argument may be more emotional than rational, but the ability to leave people in the desperation we are witnessing can only be described as an abhorrent lack of humanity.
NO – Adam Hilsenrath
Many attitudes towards the current influx of migrants into Europe are mistaken; they lump all those migrating into Europe into one basket, when in fact there is a clear difference that can be drawn between different groups of migrants.
On the one hand, asylum seekers flee persecution, war, violations of their human rights, torture, and terrorism. Economic migrants, meanwhile – virtually every European country has said it shall turn away those whose asylum claim fails – are not subject as extreme a necessity for relocation. Where asylum-seekers run for their lives, economic migrants run just for better lives. While we should have sympathy for these migrants, there are a couple of issues we must bear in mind when thinking of Europe’s response.
Firstly, many saw the crisis as particularly disheartening and in need of special attention (here I refer only to the economic migrants, and not the Syrian asylum seekers) when hundreds and thousands of innocent people boarded rickety boats that often became their death trap halfway across the Mediterranean. These people were manipulated, duped into giving up their life savings for a coin flip between death and an impoverished life in Europe. In a way, they may have been unlucky to be slightly wealthier than those who couldn’t even afford the extortionate cost of travel and stayed behind. These considerations point to the conclusion that the crisis killing these people is not on this side of the Mediterranean, and attention must instead be turned to the North African coastline in order to stall the crisis and save lives. Taking in these people won’t solve the problem; it will encourage human traffickers and make the crisis worse.
Secondly, for those economic migrants lucky enough to make it to their perceived promised land in Europe they stand on what is effectively an equal footing with the homeless, with no home, limited job prospects, health risks, and no place to go but a reliance on various charity work that might well help some of them. A few weeks ago it was revealed that 100,000 children in the UK were considered homeless (though admittedly, those in temporary housing were included in the figures), yet we saw no large campaign online asking councils to take in homeless people like they did for migrants, or large crowdfunding drives to help these people (above the important and notable charitable work already done). There is a widely recognised difference between economic suffering and people fleeing for their lives, even if we wish to treat them equally.
Economic migrants suffer a great deal, but taking them on encourages twisted human traffickers to pile more and more people into rickety death traps to cross the Mediterranean. Once they have arrived in Europe, to try and process the huge numbers of them would take resources away from either those in similar positions from our own country, or asylum-seekers fleeing true danger.
The choice between helping those fleeing for their lives and those chasing after a better life is an unfortunate but easy choice to make.