Saturday, September 24, 2016

War, Refugees and Aleppo

One of the great difficulties for the media in deciding how to report continuing disasters is that of maintaining the readers' listeners' or viewers' interest.

Wars in the Middle East have continued for so long now that maintaining the interest of citizens in countries not directly affected by the civil strife there is I imagine, hugely difficult although to be fair the BBC, its radio news at 10pm, has had the tragedies in Syria, as the top story for some days now.

Nonetheless the Guardian newspaper today (Saturday) has the hideous strife in Aleppo relegated to page 22 with its front page headline being the unsavoury nature of some takeaway meals in the UK. Important though the latter may be, the issue seems hardly  apt for the main front page news of today.

How should nations outside the conflict be reacting to the shocking bombings and killings taking place in Syria almost daily and how should individuals react? How should refugees be dealt with by nation states? These questions go to the heart of the human spirit but nonetheless are hugely difficult to answer.

I well recall my close friend and HCPT helper Bernie who is a Roman Catholic from Baghdad being truly pleased by the Western deposing of Saddam Hussein. Personally I never voted for Tony Blair whose Labour government joined the US-led coalition which invaded Iraq in 2003 and deposed the tyrannical president Hussein yet contrary to much popular opinion in the UK at the time believed that action to be correct if not courageous. 

Additionally the first Iraq war about which I posted earlier this year at:
First Iraq War  seems hugely relevant yet rarely features in the largely negative reports about  the 2003 invasion and Tony Blair's involvement. 

More recently Bernie has expressed the view that the 2003 invasion  was after all not worthwhile. I understand her change of heart although am not sure if I share it.

That recent history of Iraq and the peoples' reactions to what occurred then cause me to speculate that  one country or at least the UK, becoming involved in the man made tragedies  of other countries, caused largely by greed or religious divisions in the latter, is unproductive for the people affected there. 

The single exception in my view may be when the rulers of a country seek to subjugate all the female citizens there simply because they are not male, as in Afghanistan. Surely in such circumstances mankind together has a duty to act?

Reverting to Syria and the slaughter of so many civilians including tiny children in Aleppo, if as seems to be the view, we at least in the UK, should not act by  putting soldiers in as was done in Iraq, then how should we react - if at all?

Trying to give food and succour to the victims despite the bombing of food convoys by parties to the terror in Aleppo, surely continues to be worthwhile and the courage of those who take personal risks to help the victims is clear. 

Attempts to lessen if not resolve the conflicts through the UN should continue. The UN is hugely imperfect but is all really the world has at this time, to consider such issues in depth and internationally. 

The refugee crisis is massive and there are no easy or obvious solutions. There views of some in  say Hungary to the effect that most of the thousands of refugees streaming towards European countries are Muslim whereas Hungary is Christian nation, are understandable but (in my humble opinion) hardly Christian perhaps? 

The UK or at least GB is already an hugely overcrowded island which is unable to take more immigrants initially appears to be a reasonable response, yet only a few years ago  in a different context it was reported that the human population of the whole planet could all stand up together on the Isle of Wight (recently queried also by the Guardian!). 

The problems already faced in the UK by the shortage of  affordable housing, the almost bankrupt National Health Service, overcrowded roads and railways, high taxation  and schools full to bursting already make many almost weep. 

How then should the UK react to the refugee crisis affecting so many? Prior to the Brexit vote the answer surely should have been considered by all EU countries meeting urgently with that one item on the agenda? 

The EU countries instead appeared to take actions independent of the EU common good let alone that of the refugees. 

Thus Germany which had a population crisis opposite to that of the UK, with the German population rapidly falling, compared that of the UK which is rising fast, took unilateral action to admit a million refugees and sought to impose fines on countries such as Hungary which did not accept the numbers of refugees determined by the Germans. That not only created rancour between EU countries but also appears to be leading to the rising of unpleasant extreme right political parties throughout the continent.

Reverting to the issue of how the UK should react: 

My own view is that we should react as we did in 1972 when Idi Amin of Uganda expelled all Ugandan Asians. In other words either in consultation with our EU neighbours or otherwise given Brexit, we should take a large number of refugees from Syria or the refugee camps in and around that country, perhaps 100,000. There should be an additional  but temporary income tax of say 5p in the £ imposed by the government to assist financing the additional schools, housing and infrastructure required for the country to be able to cope with this increase in population. After all temporary housing was massively erected after WWII to accommodate those whose homes had been bombed. As a BBC website reports:

Prefabricated Houses


Sections of houses were made in factories and were reassembled on building sites. These houses were quick to erect and provided good facilities such as bathrooms and gardens. These houses were meant to be a temporary solution to the problem of housing shortages but many remained after 40 years.

The above reaction to the disaster is hard but simply putting up barriers to fellow human beings grievously suffering and in dire need is surely harder still?

As a footnote though, I would add that priority should be given in selecting the 100,000 in dire need, to those in and about Syria and that dangerous journeys to Europe should not be encouraged by giving any priority to those who have already reached safe countries but now wish to go on from there to the UK. 

1 comment:

  1. As an after thought to the point above about funding the new immigrants to the UK, rather than raise income tax by 5p, increasing fuel tax by that amount could have the advantages of being for many, a voluntary tax in that fewer car journeys might be made, secondly would perhaps result in contributions towards funding being made in due course, by those refugee immigrants who became successful and thirdly, might be fairer overall than an income tax increase.

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