The Slog interrogates and analyses a seemingly overwhelming response to the Arabian/African refugee crisis – and suggests that, once again, attitudes are being framed by a deadly mélange of genuine compassion, naïvete, and ideological agenda.
This may prove to be the most unpopular blog I’ve ever written. But if nothing else, I think if we are to learn anything from human tragedy, then it warrants examination.
I’m using the term ‘migrant refugees’ because (despite widespread commentary around out there) for practical purposes in most cases, asylum seekers, migrants and refugees are not mutually exclusive, and the international law relating to them is at best mealy-mouthed and at worst impenetrable. I do accept, wholeheartedly, as it happans, that telling the Islamist refugee from the innocent migrant is vitally important. Sadly, this is an obviously commonsense approach vehemently opposed by the politically correct – whose cadres are everywhere in dramatising the scale of tragedy, but lack solutions to the root causes of it.
The causes, profile and nature of those trying to enter the EU illegally are, at any time, complex and badly misunderstood by most publics….as is the relative ability of the recipient States to absorb them. This ignorance is exacerbated by occasional outbursts of wild idealism or cynical mendacity on all sides; or put another way, it is yet another contemporary problem, news and data about which are being manipulated by at least four separate interest groups. Of whom, more later.
Let’s start with the causes. There are long, medium and short-term reasons behind the steady rise and now frightening exaggeration of migrant refugees numbers trying to enter the EU. Many of them cannot sensibly be quantified, because the reality/myth line has been smudged by the spittle of extremists throughout the seven decades since 1946. Broadly, they can be set out (in no order of provable importance) as follows:
Imperial domination of, and exit from, Africa
The importance of oil in the Upper middle/North African region
Civil Wars in black Africa, including deportation/genocidal policies from often military leaders
Energy-focused and short-termist US foreign policy in North Africa
Conflicts and territory disputes between Israel and its neighours
The original rise of Islamic fundamentalism
Western responses to that rise
The ‘Arab Spring’
The acceleration of support for Islamist jihadism and persecution of infidels
The West’s widespread, misguided and inconsistent responses to it.
Jihadist strategy aimed at ‘planting’ cells in the European region
Genocidal Islamist attacks upon those unwilling to submit to Jihadism
EU organisational stupor and delay in grasping the size of the problem
Criminal elements organising obviously doomed boat voyages
Awareness of the relief efforts encouraging others – both organisers and individuals – to try their luck.
So: you are a relief border guard in Austria. Last week you saw shipwrecked families pouring in from Italy. This week you’re dealing with even larger numbers coming via Hungary. How do you try and gauge the motives, beliefs, values and derivation of the family in front of you?
The short answer is that it’s an impossible task. And as well as all the history behind this frantic diaspora, there is a seemingly endless data set in front of us.
The first thing to recognise is that it’s nothing new. The biggest influx on record came in 1992 – nearly 700,000 EU applications largely comprising refugees from the Balkans conflict. At that time too, the German intake dwarfed everyone else’s. In 1972, Britain alone dealt with over 70,000 middle-class Asians expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin. The general result of that influx was an almost unmitigated success story – an obvious reflection of the immigrant commercial culture involved, and a point to which I shall return.
Migrations from African and IndoPak regions in general to the UK both before and after that event – Biafrans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis for example – have been more numerous than for any other EU member: every year Britain takes 330,000 net migrants, and during the 1970s alone (when it was already an EU member) 7.2 million people from outside the EU settled in the UK. For this reason alone, Britain is easily the most populous EU Member State in terms of density and limited land surface, and by far the most multicultural. By 2011, UK government data showed that fully 70% of the population increase since 2001 was net immigration by those born elsewhere.
The desire to demonise an unpleasantly corporacratic Tory Government in the UK blinds some to this reality, but it shouldn’t: we lack the agricultural land or infrastructural farming base of France, Germany, Austria, Spain or Italy. There is a strong case to be made on purely practical grounds that, while we should be generous with relief help from Britain for these unfortunate escapees, Britain’s self-inflicted austerity and debt should be taken into account when it comes to British acceptance of huge short-term immigration.
There are, nevertheless arguments both for and against this viewpoint. Britain and Germany look like shining knights on applications alone, but on a per million of population basis, we slip well down the list:
However, if you factor population per square kilometre of available land, the UK would be in the Top 3 again…whereas Germany wouldn’t. Note also, by the way, that not a single leading EU country above is in the Top 8, but Greece – on both bases – emerges (when one adds economic disaster to the equation) as by far the most philanthropic EU Member. Having been pummelled to death by Brussels-am-Berlin for six years, Greece pitched in with 62% of the German total….on a population base of at most 11 million.
Finally on Britain, today we saw the disgracefully politicised Cabinet Office tweet about British ‘aid’ to Syria over the years…clearly the only halfway-decent stat they could come up with. Long-term aid of course has nothing whatever to do with short-term migrant crises, and under ‘aid’ an awful lot of naughty things firing bullets are too easily included.
But there is hypocrisy in all this wherever you look. Merkel – desperate to rebuild the tarnished face of German humanity post Greek-firesale – has had her Spinmeistern pumping out every five-noughted figure they can think of. But out of the other side of her mouth, she has told the Italian authorities, “No more Austrian marchers via your country, please”.
Next, we have the myth that North African countries aren’t doing their bit in this. In fact, the UNHCR makes it abundantly clear that Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan alone have taken in 2.7 million Syrian escapees…nine times more than the entire EU. That picture will change of course as the hastily emitted Brussels resettlement plan cobbles itself together into some kind of recognisable shape. The only ‘Arab’ regime deserving of our disgust is Saudi Arabia (a willing cooperator in US foreign policy) which has so far taken in none. At all. Not one. It’s obviously far too busy blowing up Yemen.
But then we must consider the nature of the conflict Syrians have fled. Many of the anti-Assad rebels whose weapons were bankrolled via John MCain from the US don’t just murderously despise Bashar’s Alawhite minority: they have within their leadership many prominent members fanatically in favour of the sort of religious cleansing that keeps Boko Harum gunmen out of the unemployment lines – and soundly identified advocates of spreading Jihadist terror in Europe. This is yet another consideration in the mind of our Austrian border official from earlier.
Idealistic enthusiasm and leftist agenda must not be allowed to rip the core of this debate from the genuinely humanitarian apple. Nobody knows how big the Jihadist threat could become in the EU once the dust has settled behind the tens of thousands of migrant marchers: but please, please can we not get back into lachrymose soundbites on the intellectually dismal level of ‘Arab Spring’. I note that the progress of refugees through Hungary has already become ‘The March of Hope’; this grates on the same part of my brain that always suspected the ‘Peace’ Flotillas bound for Gaza. Already, Channel Four has put together a blog on ‘Europe’s most xenophobic State, Hungary’. I never cease to be amazed at the ease with which neoliberal colonialism is able to recruit naifs to its cause. A tweet tonight referred to the Hungarian people “having more heart than its Government”.
Hungary’s Viktor Orban government is neither Xenophobic nor heartless. There are geographic and demographic reasons why Hungary is not in an easy position to take refugees right now. Orban and his colleagues feel that a distinction needs to be made between actual refugees and other migrants. Refugees deserve and get help, they believe: but masses of migrants cannot be absorbed within such a small population.
Hungary’s population, at 9.8 million, is smaller than even that of Greece. Greece covers 132,000 square kilometres, Hungary just 93,000. To compare the economic condition of Hungary with that of Austria and Germany is ludicrous – and smacks yet again of agenda-ridden politico-media information. Hungary is among the top five EU members in terms of number of migrants trying to enter the EU…but proportionally, it receives nowhere near a just percentage of the EU funds allocated to guard borders.
This isn’t just an accident. The EU has it in for Hungary in general and Orban in particular – despite the fact that nearly 60% of Hungarian voters support his attitudes and policies. Viktor Orban is not xenophobic, he is an outspoken opponent of both the euro in his country and what he rightly terms ‘economic colonisation’. Orban fines US banks, and closes other foreign banks, because they cheat Hungarians – not because he is a xenophobe. He does not share the warmth of London Mayor Boris Johnson towards their activities.
Another geopolitical element we all need to get up to speed about in relation Hungary is that the official Opposition leadership in Budapest are simply hardline Stalinists who changed their allegiance overnight from a Communist to a neoliberal one…rather like Frau Doktor Angela Merkel – to choose another example at random. The Hungarian élite was defeated at the ballot box (twice) by Orban since 2010 in the same way that Tsipras thrashed Nea Demokratika in Greece. They have diametrically opposed politics, but the exact same aim: justice for the small against the big, and a profound suspicion of the Brussels version of ‘liberal democracy’.
Can anyone except the knee-jerk Rusbridger Left say they don’t share that suspicion? Think Irish referendums, Lisbon referendums, Cyprus, Greek elections, an illegally formed and self-appointed Eurogroupe, the ECB, Mario Draghi, Wolfgang Schäuble, Mariano Rajoy, Luxembourgian corruption, unwarranted loans offered to Ukraine to further US ends while Greece starved. This is a model for liberal democracy? You’re welcome to it.
I have to say that the view of the head of the Hungarian Evangelical Church mirrors my view exactly when he suggests that, if you come across a person in trouble, you should help; but after you’ve helped thousands of similar sufferers, it’s time to look into what is causing the recurrent disaster faced by those people – and solve that problem. Viktor Orban was the first EU leader to warn about the consequences of American policy in North Africa, and the only one to have suggested investment by the EU in Syria to rebuild its postwar economy – and thus minimise the hardship of migration to another, far more uncertain, future.
Nothing is ever as simple as the Western media, neolib supranationalism, international leftist mendacity and fundamentalist religious spinners would have you believe. These are the four key reality-benders and superficial sound-biters I introduced at the start of this essay. The nutters who simply must have everything in black and white – their white and our black. The infinitessimal minority of human beings who seem always to be the scum somebody forgot to spoon out of the jam.
Over 90% of all Africa >> EU migration is a direct or indirect result of energy and fundamentalist geopolitics in the upper-middle and North African area. As long as a lapdog and hopelessly divided UN does nothing about that reality, then we will all be reduced to vainly treating symptomology.
In that context of what I continue to call Radical Realism (for want of a better term), I make the following specific and general pleas to all those of sound mind and good heart:
- The EU was pathetically unprepared for the obvious. Don’t lose sight of this, and at the same time don’t wind up being naively unprepared for the aftermath. Idealism is important up to a point: administrative and security realities must also be faced.
- Once the heart-tugging pictures of desolation are done, the media will set sail on another ‘voyeurage’ of misrepresentation: they won’t give a monkey’s about how people migrating or receiving cope afterwards. It’s no good saying “It’s too early to think about that” because its a fluffy kopout that only scores well on twitter feeds: for politicians, it is never time to face those realities. It’s why Britain’s blatantly overpopulated, under-farmed mainland is in the state it’s in. And trust me – in the end the élites will use the consequences against us all. For them, terrorists at large are just another club with which to pulp what’s left of our liberty.
- The US must bear a substantial portion of the blame for the direct consequences of its shall we say somewhat changeable alliances with, and interference in, Islamic fundamentalism. Everyone on Earth from Russians via South Americans to south Europeans is in peril both economically and physically thanks to American corporacratic ideas about energy and banking. So far, I see little or no sign (as ever) of Washington wanting to clear up its own mess – apart from toe-curling statements from Hillary Clinton about “a global crisis”.
- Let’s stop making risibly braindead comparisons between Russian Jewish immigrants to Britain in 1895 and Syrians to Hungary in 2015. In terms of Britain’s capacity, global position, and the cultural difference between those groups for example, such parallels don’t even get past first base as a criterion for deciding what to do. Standard pc kneejerk will merely do what pc zero-discrimination produced in the management of immigration under New Labour….55,000 Jihadists in Britain, and only they know where they are. Like it or not (and personally I loathe it) our ‘Special Relationship’ with the US has delivered unto us a security problem, just as the increasingly mad EU has exacerbated our overpopulation and agricultural decline. Puerile tweets won’t wish the problem away. Fluffiness won’t cut it.
- Last but not least, just this once, let’s at least try to investigate what we see and read, rather than constantly highlighting his or that element in terms of ideological tribalism. As long as we continue to suggest an inability to think for ourselves even inside the stockade, we will be treated like Gammas by the self-appointed Alphas who insist on all or nothing – that is, all for them, and nothing for us.