Tag Archives: Migrants

Compassion, Caravans and Common Sense

caravan, Honduras, Donald TrumpAt the moment, in the south of Mexico, there are about 5000 people walking, bussing and being given lifts so that they can reach the American border in time to create really brilliant pre-election footage of nasty white men acting on the orders of the Orange Ogre beating up, if not outright shooting, the veneer of women and children who act as the vanguard for the caravan.

This is pretty clearly an organized operation. The Hondurans did not all wake up a week ago and decide, spontanously, to march to America. Who funded the organization is an interesting question which will almost certainly not be answered before the human tide rolls in. And it actually doesn’t matter because the issue does not go away because it turns out that Soros or the Democratic National Committee provided the money.

Migration, mass or otherwise, is likely to be the dominant issue in the 21st century. And not just any sort of migration; the migration of desperately poor people to wealthier places. Whether they are sub-Saharan Africans, Middle Eastern Muslims or the masses of the Central American poor, the issue is going to remain the same: what do weathy nations owe the people of poorer nations, if anything.

Truth to tell, the US could let the entire caravan into the country, sort out the obvious criminals and other undesirables and let the rest stay without breaking a sweat. 5000 people is simply not enough to really matter in the grand scheme of the United States. (And this may very well be what Trump ends up doing as it has the best political optics assuming the caravan makes it to the US border.)

The trouble with that solution is that it would rather obviously create a huge incentive for more caravans to set out. While 5000 people would be a drop in the bucket, 50,000 would be a huge problem and 500,000 would be catastrophic. The dilemma is how to be compassionate without creating the conditions favouring more caravans.

Americans are tremendously generous people and they have a remarkable capacity to get things done quickly and effectively. One potentially reasonable solution would be to set up processing stations deep inside Mexico with accomodation, food and even cash incentives to bring the caravaners of the march and into a process which would treat their asylum claims seriously and legally. Logistically, setting up the first processing station a hundred miles ahead of the caravan would not be easy, but it would also not be the only station.

This sort of approach would require the permission and support of the Mexican government but that should be relatively easy to secure. It would also require a serious commitment on the part of the Trump administration to actually understand what is driving the migrants. Again, not impossible.

Politically, putting resources into a line of processing stations up to the American border designed to blunt the force of the caravan seems like a solution which all but the most partisan anti-Trumpers could get behind. It would also set the stage for the second element of a compassionate and common sense solution.

The way to stop caravans is to work towards eliminating the conditions from which they arise. The caravan’s organizers began the caravan in a desperately poor part of a violent and gang ridden very nearly failed state. Make Honduras Great Again sounds a bit facile but, if the US wants to reduce pressure on its borders, it needs successful states in Central and South America.

Sixty years of American foreign policy in Central and South America has not done a speck of good. (I suspect because of a combination of misguided support for assorted dictators and billions of dollars of exactly the wrong sort of foreign aid.) There are lots of good ways to improve conditions in Central and South America but they mainly involve private investment and a willingness to trade aggressively with those countries. Taking a second and a third look at the costs of the “war on drugs” would also be a good idea.

Previous administrations were largely unable to tackle these sorts of iniatives if only because they could not think much outside the “foreign aid/”stable” government” box. Trump does not even know there is such a box.

Making progress in Central and South America using a new model which combined private investment with trade and provided support to the governments as they dealt with their gang problems would take time. But it would also provide Trump with a political theme above and beyond “Keep America Great” for the 2020 election.

 

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False Hope

migrants, europe, syrian“Why are they stopping us now? We came to Europe because we saw the Germans on TV telling us they wanted us to come to Europe, saying welcome, welcome,” said Mohammed, 28, who worked at a cellphone shop in Aleppo, Syria, and spent a night at the hotel in Zagreb. “And now there are all these problems and all this confusion.” washington post

There is a difference between giving respite to refugees from a war zone and offering economic opportunities to economically desperate people. Both are laudable but huge trouble can erupt when one is conflated with the other.

With refugees the objective is to get them out of harms way and to take care of them. This can be achieved pretty much anywhere that is not in danger of direct attack. So, for example, the displaced Syrians in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon are all in relative safety. They need to be taken care of but that is a matter of money and logistics.

Taking on economic migrants is about what those migrants have to offer and what the host country needs. No country needs more welfare recipients. Most European countries could use young, well trained, workers as their populations are aging and their birth rates falling. But to get those workers these countries need to be selective.

The tragedy in Syria – where the civilian population is trapped in a multi-dimensional war zone – has created refugees and economic migrants. But the Europeans persist in the illusion that all the people heading north should be considered refugees.

There will be a bitter day of reckoning when this illusion is exposed. bitter for the Euros who were sucked in by their governing classes and bitter for the economic migrants who will discover that the skills they have, are not the skills which the German economic juggernaut can really use. The Euros, and especially the Germans, need to eliminate the sloppy thinking and loose language which are luring people like the poor Syrian quoted to a bleak future in countries which do not want or need them.

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Migrants as if they matter

You can always count on the Church of England to provide a soft, squishy, Christian lite reponse to any tragedy. The Bishop of Dover has weighed in on the migrant crisis gripping Calais, England and Europe in general,

“We’ve become an increasingly harsh world, and when we become harsh with each other and forget our humanity then we end up in these standoff positions,” he said. “We need to rediscover what it is to be a human, and that every human being matters.” the guardian

Migrants are, indeed human beings and they do indeed matter. But the current situation of desperate people trying to crash into England is not humane and it is not sustainable. While his Grace would, no doubt, feel it his Christian duty to run a few trainloads through the Chunnel that would be the very worst thing to do in the circumstances.

A conversation about migration and refugees is desperately needed but it needs to begin with England regaining control of its borders and, as importantly, making itself much less attractive to illegal migrants. So long as there is a good chance of getting across the Channel to a hugely over generous welfare state and virtually no chance of being sent home once you get there, the attraction of the UK will remain.

Regaining control of the English borders may not be easy but it is essential. That may mean saying, for a period of weeks or even months, that no migrant will be admitted, period. Those who come anyway need to be taken back to where they came from if that is in the EU. Once that has been accomplished and made to stick, the revision of the eligibility for benefits needs to take place. As well, the casual labour market needs to be curbed.

With those measures in place, if the English believe they owe something to migrants they can set up an actual system. For example, a Syrian Christian is almost certainly in danger of his or her life if returned to Syria. A Syrian Muslim might be in danger as well, but not to the extent of being hunted down and killed. Making choices is important. But it cannot happen in chaos.

Carving out enclaves for Syrians and Iraqis and Libyans who have been displaced by the horrors of ISIS and its knock on effects, is not beyond the capacity of the UN or NATO. But these enclaves need to be in the nations from whence the migrants come. (And an enclave strategy could be effective in other troubled sources of migrants – simply taking over sections of the Sudan, Somalia and so on could create safe places for the poor citizens of those countries. Yes, this would smack of neo-colonialism; but it is quite clear that these are failed states and equally clear that their populations need help.)

Creating a serious migrant strategy will run up against the likes of His Grace and all manner of bleeding hearts who would just as soon solve an immediate problem with compassion when that compassion will simply create a vastly larger problem a year or two hence. Cameron no longer has to appease the awful squishes in the Liberal Democrats so he can actually undertake policy which has a hope of working.

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