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Editorial: Heed the call of civil society and secure safe routes for refugees

THE news is crowded out with stories of refugees and the crisis being acted out in the waters between Britain and France.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is so habituated to her dog whistle tactics that even her exclusion from the emergency meeting of European interior ministers last week – to discuss a common continent-wide strategy for dealing with the refugee crisis – was hopefully spun as a mark of her fortitude.

The reality is that from the chancelleries of Europe to the Home Office canteen the common conclusion is that the Home Secretary is not at home with the responsibilities of government.

Or as one Home Office source put it: Patel is a “headless chicken... on a plane to whoever will speak to her.”

Thus she sets off on a grand tour of European capitals to get some traction in the negotiations that are consuming the energies of every European minister of the interior.

The Schengen arrangements which give most European Union member states a porous border and which allow for a more or less unimpeded travel across the confines of these states means that the exterior barrier to entry into the EU – the location for unending conflict and human tragedy – are located conveniently far away.

The EU funds the Turkish regime to reinforce its steel barricades against Middle Eastern refugees from the poverty and deprivation that unending imperialist war have brought.

Libya’s competing robber barons solicit funds from their imperial paymasters to police the Mediterranean waters and control the migrants fleeing war and the dry African winds of global warming.

All in the name of (our) common European values.

Patel, deprived by Brexit of any opportunity to shift the blame for the migrant flows onto the Brussels bureaucracy, is compelled to act tough to secure Britain’s watery frontier. But she can expect little help from her opposite numbers.

It was the French President Emmanuel Macron – in his unlikely role as chief bouncer for the Schengen area – who blocked her entry to the conference. Now her one-trick-pony of a strategy is to leverage Britain’s upcoming presidency of the G7 to stage a unilateral bid to win some time and traction.

The inhumanity of Britain’s border regime – which amounts to reliance on bad weather and Channel storms to constrict the flow of refugees trusting to the icy waters in order to exercise their internationally guaranteed right to refuge – is only mitigated by its relative inefficiency.

In the bloodless consideration of politicians and senior civil servants who take ownership of this policy there is no human feeling for people who regard the dangerous tides as less of a threat to their security and wellbeing than the places from which they flee.

In stark contrast to official Britain more than 80 representatives of civil society, refugee groups and trade unions have signed an open letter to the government calling for humanitarian visas and safe routes to sanctuary.

So long as imperial war, state sanctions against disobedient nations, poverty and climate change drive people to the relative safety of the developed capitalist world then the distinction between so-called “economic migrants” and refugees is redundant.

Britain’s offshore location from the continental mainland means that the long journey across the European landmass acts to reduce the migrant flow to a trickle by the time this largely English-speaking assembly gathers on the French coast.

If human values and the European Enlightenment mean anything Britain’s government and state authorities should heed the call of civilised civil society and secure safe routes for this huddle of humanity to land and exercise their rights as refugees.


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