Friday, 8 May 2015

It's "mild policies", not "mild winds" that's driving the so-called "migrants" to Europe

Over last weekend there were thousands of boat people -- "migrants" the BBC calls them -- arriving each day in Europe.  Thousands -- six or seven thousand as I recall, and just over one weekend.
Media comment was that these people were making the journey because of "mild weather" and calm seas.  Well, yes, that helps.  But we know that they were coming even when the winds were lively and the seas rough.
And the reason for that is that European policies positively encourage these "migrants" to set off in these rickety barges.  For the reality is that when they arrive in Europe they are there to stay once they touch Italian (or Greek, or Spanish) soil.
And the reason for that, in turn, is that they're pretty much considered refugees, no matter what their back story. And so, they get to stay.
Many of these may be genuine refugees: from political persecution.  But we know that many more are not: they are simply leaving places they don't like and heading to places they think will be more congenial.  Many tell the same story, indicating they've been trained what to say to their willingly credulous interviewers.  And some (many? who knows?) are would-be Jihadis.  One would need to be willingly naive to believe that that is not the case.
Traditionally the intake of potential refugees has been done in a legal way: through refugee application.  And that allows for a close investigation of each case.
Coming by boats is illegal and swamps the official system.
At least it used to be seen as illegal.  The BBC even, used to call them "illegal immigrants".  Then it decided that was to negative, so they went for "undocumented migrants" for a while.  Before their latest incarnation, which is simply "migrants".
Just that they come by boat, don't you know. And don't get checked; or are checked so cursorily that every one to date arriving by boat has been allowed to stay.
This is insanity by Europe. The are building up for themselves an ever greater problem for their children to handle.
My old colleague, Alexander Downer (we of DFAT class of '76), former Aussie Foreign Minister and now Australia's High Commissioner to the UK, was on BBC the other night, talking on this issue.
He said there are three options for Europe:
(1) Do nothing.  In which case things will continue pretty much as they are now, with regular, multiple-daily, sailings from north Africa for the shores of Europe and with the collateral damage of many drownings.
(2) Decide that the drownings should be ended; and decide that you're going to let them in anyway; therefore send boats over to pick them up. In that case, watch for the millions lining up to take them.
(3) Decide that they should not be queue-jumping other valid refugees and so stop them at source.
If you decide on (3), how do you stop them at source?
Enter Australia.  We've already done that, by robust measures to turn the boats back and send them to reception centres and get out the clear message that anyone trying to get into Australia by the boat-back door, will never be allowed to settle in Australia.
This policy has reduced the number of boat people from thousands to none; and the number of drowned from the hundreds to none.
Of course the human rights crowd don't like this.  But the majority of Australians certainly do.  Is this mean and unhumanitarian of us? Well, no.  Just that we prefer to take refugees through the established channels, and we've committed to doing that (and have done) for tens of thousands.
Maybe Europe will wake up and take on the "Australian solution". They ought to, it's wise and humanitarian, taking account of concerns of both the would-be refugees and those very real very deep concerns of the host country residents.