Before we proceed, I will not attempt to bore you with details on reasons why I have not published since April, for excuses I believe are meaningless to the recipient. Instead I will endeavour to regain your audience by covering quite a contentious issue, which I have I tried to approach with both empathy and objectivity.
IF the migrant crisis has shown us one thing, it is that the democratic process does work. I say this because despite the Tories best efforts to ignore the direct humanitarian crisis and focus on “finding a solution to Syria’s problems” (politician speak for washing their hands of a situation) a decision arguably driven by the political cloud looming above. -The European Union referendum. Following the circulation of a petition calling for Britain to accept more migrants (which got more than three times the 100,000 signatures necessary to conduct a Parliamentary debate), the media’s publication of the young boy, Aylan Kurdi’s body being lifted ashore, the millions of migrants arriving on European member states borders and human rights activists lobbying Parliament for long over two years, Cameron has decided to accept more migrants.
We must ask ourselves however why it took such efforts to begin with. Surely in the plight of a humanitarian crisis we assume a moral obligation to assist those fleeing civil war? Well, it appears not. Of course the situation is not totally devoid of any de jure reality, Article 13(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides: ‘everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to country.’ There is therefore a right to leave one’s own country. A right exercised by the 350,000 Syrian migrants to have been detected by EU Border force agencies between January and August 2015.
However, as Professor Pecoud’s highlights, there is no corresponding right to enter another country. Rights, he notes do not derive from universal norms like the convention, but rather from the supply and demand mechanism that determines migrants’ value on the labour market.’ To illustrate Antoine Pecoud’s theory is simple. The reluctance to accept more Syrian migrant is largely due to the fact that they do not have the benefit of market forces, which favour migrants endowed with bargaining power such as a skilled profession. The Syrian migrants are not highly skilled professionals seeking employment. They are instead, undertaking treacherous voyages across the Middle East to flee a government which has violated UN Resolutions prohibiting the use of chemical weapons at least 87 times. As Pecoud’s observes, the lack of bargaining power prompts migrants to accept whatever conditions, as these are likely to already constitute an improvement compared to that of their home state. The United Nations Human Rights Commission suggests migrants are often a victim of the three D’s found to be working in dirty, degrading and dangerous jobs. Can we conclude therefore that unfavourable market forces are the reasons behind the government’s unwillingness to accept more migrants?
Even if, migrants are, as Times journalist James Bloodworth writes‘doing what politicians are usually quick to encourage us to do: they are striving for something better; they are being aspirational. The difference between a refugee and the member of the British middle classes is that for the former the stakes are often a matter of life and death.’ The haunting and distressing images published by the media of the many migrants drowning at sea, reaffirm their courage and desperation. However for many, economically sound states such as Germany and Britain are attracting these ‘aspirational migrants’ due to their welfare systems. A notion Bloodworth contests wholeheartedly writing ‘refugees are not coming because Britain’s soft touch welfare system is drawing them here like wasps to a jam jar; they are coming to Europe in search of a decent and secure life that is free from poverty and war.’
Fear may also be attributable to the general reluctance to assist more migrants. Going back to Pecoud's theory, he notes migration is often viewed as a THREAT. Migration is said to jeopardize the social cohesion, employment opportunities, welfare systems and cultural and religious homogeneity. Such fears arguably, are evident if one is to look to the approach taken by Hungary’s nationalist PM Viktor Orbán. Who was reported saying ‘those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christian, but Muslims... This is an important question because Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity.’ Perhaps, Orbán will do well to take note of Thatcher’s address to the Royal Society ‘No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy- with a full repairing lease.’
Whatever the solution, it is not to be found in fear, prejudice or any form of discrimination based on religious grounds. Equally, measures should ensure the protection of human rights whilst respecting the values of the host state. A balancing act not easily achieved.