Saturday, September 19, 2015

Refugees from Syria and Elsewhere (2)

I have marked this post title  as "(2)" as a few weeks back there in this blog were my initial thoughts at:  Refugees (1)

Building new towns perhaps in the north of England and south of Scotland to accommodate c. 150,000 refugees from Syria does seem wise and humane though the time likely to be taken for such provision to be made will surely be measured in years rather than days.  Whether refugees would actually wish to live there is another difficult question. However with London schools and hospitals being already unable to cope with existing numbers added to which there is a dire shortage of  inexpensive housing in London, one wonders what choice in practice there will be?

Meanwhile David Cameron's response to the crisis to the effect that the £1bn funds provided by the UK are the second highest in the world, far more than Germany for example and promising immigration for some of the most vulnerable who are stranded in Lebanese and other local refugee camps rather than the younger, wealthier people now on the move, seems wise although how many the "some" will comprise is open to considerable argument.

The Guardian today has on its Eyewitnesssed pages 26  and 27, 6 beautiful (an odd description given the subject matter but true nonetheless) photographs depicting the crisis in full colour. However what causes reflection upon viewing these pictures is that although they depict people on the move principally to Germany, from presumably North Africa  four of them show toddlers and babies, one shows a young  western woman shaking hands with a man at a train window and the sixth shows a young immigrant being rescued from the sea at Lesbos. Common humanity causes compassion and grief to come to the fore when looking at these  photos but are they fairly depicting the full cross section of the tragedy given that most of the immigrants are said to be young men?

Following from the point made at the end of the paragraph above, in the cool light of day the overall impression is that by far the majority of those coming to Europe are young men rather than women and babies. According to media reports too, the majority are not in fact from Syria although the Syrians comprise the largest single contingent but perhaps most crucially, the mass exodus really only built up when Germany, without apparently consulting any of its EC colleagues in advance and certainly not the UK government,  announced unilaterally that it would take 100,000s. 

Putting myself in the place of a Syrian father living under the twin horrors of ISIS and the government of President Bashar al-Assad, I would have almost certainly accepted the German invitation and  at once planned to leave; all the more so as a Catholic but frankly  Muslims too would quite understandably be making make  the same decision. Of course when many took such decisions and began their arduous journies over to Germany,  others for example from Turkey and Nigeria decided to look for better lives in that country too  with the result that the numbers of emigrants has become impossible for one country to handle to the extent that Germany has had to close its borders to immigrants, hopefully only temporarily.

What sadly  seems astonishing is that Germany having decided unilaterally to take in the emigrants but then not being able to cope with the numbers, is now apparently threatening its poorer EC neighbours with fines if they do not take the emigrants in too. Closing the stable door after the horse has bolted is of course not an uncommon situation for governments as well as individuals the world over, but to seek to fine those who had no say in the original decision to open albeit temporarily so far, the German stable door in the first place, is in my humble opinion bullying of the first order, 

The decisions that now need to be taken by free countries as regards assisting the emigrants fleeing wars or poverty should be fair for the emigrants but also should reflect the German decision  which was to act alone without consulting EC partners. Fining those who do not adopt the German line would be appalling and hopefully that will not happen.

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