Why the solution to Europe’s Muslim refugee crisis includes… letting Assad stay in power, allowing Iraq to split down ethnic lines and doing a deal with the Taliban.
Europe is in the midst of a refugee crisis as hundreds of thousands of people flee Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Do we have a moral duty to let them all in?
Hi. I’m Leon Hawthorne. We’re talking about refugees and how Britain and the west should respond to the problem.
This picture played a role helping UKIP win the Brexit referendum as Nigel Farage pointed to the millions of refugees that had poured into Europe and could be heading our way.
In the U.S., Donald Trump was elected partly on his promise to crack down on Muslim refugees.
It’s clear many people don’t want to let in these people. So, who’s right and what other options are there?
Firstly, a definition. We are not talking about immigration here, legal or illegal. That will be the subject of a separate programme. Except to say: it’s true many so-called refugees are in fact economic migrants, who know it’s easier to get into our country under that pretense.
However, today we are talking specifically about refugees, asylum seekers, as defined by the 1951 United Nation’s Refugee Convention. That states: a refugee is someone with… “a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion… [in] the country of his former habitual residence.”
The problem is that definition is so wide it could include 80% of the world’s population that lives in countries that are authoritarian or dictatorships.
I mean if you come from China, Russia, Saudi Arabia or Turkey, you could say: “I want to change my government” and we would have to let you in. Because in those countries, political opponents are imprisoned, tortured and executed. So, you have good grounds for fearing persecution on the basis of political opinion.
The 1951 definition is way too broad and is wide open to abuse… and that is indeed why there are so many people claiming refugee status!
In any case, the solution to political turmoil at home is to organise and fight for change. It will be bloody. People will die. The English Civil War, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Reformation… these were all forged in blood. That experience is why we respect diversity and freedom of speech in the west, today.
It’s one thing for a whole race of people, extraneous to an area, being persecuted and seeking sanctuary elsewhere… like the Jews fleeing the pogroms. But for indigenous people, perhaps split down party lines, I think they have a duty to stay and fight for the future of their country.
The solution to civil war cannot be for half the country to get up and leave.
And what we’re seeing now is a vast number of young Muslim men, in their teens and twenties, leaving their wives, mothers and sisters behind to come to Europe for economic reasons. I find that both selfish and cowardly.
So, what is our moral responsibility?
It’s true Britain - under Blair - played a reprehensible role starting wars in many of these countries. So, we have a moral duty to help sort out the mess.
The immediate response is to set up safe havens along the border. Perhaps use UN peacekeepers drawn from Muslim countries to guard refugee camps. Britain is already contributing financially to schemes like this.
In the medium term, we have to help stop the fighting that is the catalyst of the refugee crisis.
In the case of Syria, it means reversing a stupid government policy; and do a deal with Russia and President Assad that restores peace and guarantees the safety of civilians.
In the case of Iraq, inevitably it means allowing the country to split along ethnic lines. The Kurds have virtual autonomy to the north already. We should recognise Kurdistan. The majority Shia population will get most of the land and probably come under control from their Shia neighbour, Iran. And the Sunnis should be allowed a separate state.
Afghanistan has been a mess for centuries and there’s no reason to believe that will change any time soon. We should never have allowed the response to 9/11 to go beyond targeting Al Qaeda. The TalIban didn’t attack us, first. We could do a deal with them not to export terror or to become a base for other terrorist groups. Then leave the Afghans to sort out their own fate.
The sad truth is allowing millions of Muslim refugees into the west is a time bomb of problem. They have deep seated attitudes towards women, homosexuals and free speech - to name just a few areas - which directly clash with the fundamentals of our society.
At best, they would more easily fit into neighbouring Muslim countries with whom they share a closer cultural affinity. Because, as Germany and Sweden are discovering, it may take generations for them to unlearn centuries of tradition.
I’m Leon Hawthorne. Thanks for watching.