Simon Hardy argues we need solidarity and open borders to deal with the refugee humanitarian crisis
It is impossible to see the scenes on the news every day and not be moved, horrified and angry about what is going on. Over 107,500 people came to Europe in July 2015, with no doubt an similar number in August. Thousands of people including many children camped out across Europe, in train stations, make shift camps, sleeping rough on the streets.
Most people are coming from countries destroyed by war or violent conflicts, most come from countries like Eritrea, Afghanistan and of course Syria. Others are coming from Nigeria, Darfur, Iraq and Somalia.
The right wing politicians and the fear-mongering newspapers have argued that most of the people coming to Europe are economic migrants fleeing poverty and as such have no legitimate right to stay here.
This is an excuse to wash their hands of the crisis. Out of the 4 million Syrian refugees, Britain has only taken a few thousand. David Cameron has said we can take another 500 over the next few years.
Many of the the newspapers still pitch the humanitarian crisis as primarily a nuisance for the Great British Public. Eurostars delayed, lorries stuck in traffic, terrified truck drivers at the port in Calais surrounded by desperate people. How terrible for us to have to suffer all the inconveniences of a historic humanitarian crisis and it affecting our holidays.
What a damning indictment of racist nationalism, all wrapped up in complacency.
Across the continent people are showing tremendous solidarity with people in desperate needs. Some activists have visited Calais on solidarity trip to provide much needed food and materials. In Iceland thousands of people signed a public petition to take a refugee into their own homes. In Germany people have organised welcome committees at train stations.
Compared to the heartless and pathetic response from EU political leaders it shows the compassion that people have for each other in times of need.
Left Unity has a position of opposing all immigration controls and borders. Watching the EU leaders arguing among each other about what to do with the refugees exposes how inhuman the current system is.
The current position of the EU elites is to let people drown in the Mediterranean sea and put up barbed wire fences across the border. The Hungarian and German leaders are bickering among each other over who is responsible for the thousands of people gathering at Budapest train station.
Ultimately, the crisis is being driven by a global system which causes not just poverty and human misery but also wars and internal conflicts that are destroying countries. Capitalism is a system built on bloodshed and imperialism is where a small number of very rich countries benefit greatly from the poverty of the rest of the world. It is no surprise that so many people are coming to Europe, many years ago Europeans went to their countries and colonised them, plundered them and told everyone how ‘civilised’ we are. Now their countries are in free fall many are coming here to build a better life for themselves.
Immigrants are not the problem
Who can blame them? But the western argument is ‘refugees we tolerate, economic migrants are the enemy’. As socialists we do not make a distinction between the rights of refugees and the rights of people to escape poverty. We are all human beings and we must have solidarity with each other. After all, many British people have moved cities or countries to find work or a better quality of life – at least 5.5 million people British people now live abroad.
The argument that migrants and refugees just take resources is a false one. Human beings are a great resource. They create jobs because humans have to be housed, fed, clothed and they have to be transported to and from places. The children of refugees need schools. The sick will need hospitals with nurses and doctors. All of this creates work and therefore jobs. Immigrants actually contribute more in tax per head of the population than ‘native’ British people do.
When people reply that our country is too small or we lack the resources to handle new influxes of people, we have to bear in mind this is actually a criticism of the socio-economic system we live under, not the people coming here. There is a lot of money in Britain, we are a rich country but the money is in the hands of an elite of the super rich. We have to redistribute that wealth and start to plan key sections of the economy, including house building, with new schools and hospitals to meet our needs.
And many refugees return home once the crisis that forced them to leave passes. Most Syrians want to go back to Syria, but they cannot in the situation of a civil war. As long as countries like Britain are involved in foreign wars and occupations then as a country we have to take our part of the blame and the responsibility for the humanitarian crisis.
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