Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Take more refugees and do it now

To anyone who doesn't carefully avert their eyes, the scenes from eastern Europe are harrowing.  It's not just fit young men trying to get into Europe: it's also families with young children and babies, surely only making this terrible journey because of terrifying conditions at home.

Do we really leave them to suffer and, in some cases, die?

People who have the determination, perseverance and pluck to undergo such dreadful hardships are a huge loss to their homelands.  They could, if only temporarily, prove great assets to us if we gave them the chance.

But ... but.

But we have a shortage of houses already.  Where do they live?  But we have a struggling economy.  Can we support them?  But what if they include terrorists?  And many more buts.

Well, we do have quite a bit of accommodation in the UK.  It's not in the south, but these people aren't going to be commuting to work any time soon.  Place them where the accommodation is.

Not only that but as the government slims down, military bases (for example) are being closed.  House some refugees there: even (on a temporary basis) makeshift accommodation in a hanger or warehouse is better than being in a field in the rain.

And yes, we do have a tough economy so how can we afford them?  Well, let's take a billion pounds from the foreign aid budget and use it in the UK to build basic accommodation - even as basic as dormitories - where we need places to house these people.  Accept them on the basis that they will agree to learn to speak English and employ some more teachers to teach them; short term contracts for retired teachers, if necessary.  Many young graduates struggle to find work in the UK: offer one year contracts to young graduates to help refugees learn to live in a UK society with UK norms whether this is teaching, social work, counselling and therapy, language skills, UK history and simple things about just how the UK works because even in day-to-day terms it is far different from the middle east.  Another billion pounds going into the UK economy will help expand it, to everyone's advantage.

Give refugees a chance to contribute to the economy so they can help build it.  Offer them free flights home when conditions in their homeland permit.  Offer them the chance to work to become UK citizens if they wish.

But what of the evil people who try to get in among the mass of refugees?

Like the poor, the evil will always be with us.  There will be very few, however, among refugees.    Children aren't terrorists.  Desperate parents aren't terrorists nor likely to undermine a society which helps them escape their wretched plight.  For those few, those very few, who bite the hand that feeds them, we need quick justice: deport any convicted of serious crimes.  These will be very few however.  Imagine you had to flee your home and country with just what you could carry: would you attack a country that gave you refuge?

It's the British way to act carefully and this generally works well.  In this case we need act briskly; a contemplative approach will see many die during the winter.  20,000 refugees over five years is too little, too late: 100,000 over the next year is more like it.  We cannot take every refugee but our current approach is pitiful.  Here's how pitiful:

UK proposal: 20,000 over 5 years.
France: 24,000 over 2 years
Lebanon: 1.2 million refugees today
Germany: (proposed) 500,000 annually

Whether from the point of view of common humanity or self-interest, we should take a lot more refugees a lot sooner.

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