There are a dozen of arguments to be made about immigration, but the immediate moral issue is clear. Whilst we squabble about the future of these ‘migrants’, ‘immigrants’, ‘asylum seekers’ or ‘refugees’, arbitrarily labelling them ‘economic’ or ‘legitimate’ to suit one argument or another, they suffocate and drown.
Let them in.
Some argue that an ageing Europe needs immigrants to avoid economic decline. Others argue that if this is true in the mid- and long-term, there are still sufficient unemployed young people and women to take up the short-term slack.
Some argue that the ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity that follows from large-scale immigration is harmful. England for the English, Hungary for Hungarians. But the greatest civilisations of the world have thrived on diversity, and the world is smaller now – the parochial values of nationalism, ethnic, cultural, and religious homogeneity belong to the past.
Today, our values are supranational or global. Democracy, justice, human rights, equality of opportunity, tolerance. They transcend the particular customs and whims of a single group, and have nothing to do with creed.
Some argue that these people’s problems are not our problems. But in many cases it is the rich world’s meddling (usually driven by an insatiable thirst for oil) that have created the conditions they flee. What good came of our hundred years of meddling in Iraq, in Libya, in Afghanistan, in Syria?
Some argue that immigrants are a terrorist threat. But surely, well-funded terrorists can find a more convenient way of infiltrating Europe than through the fields of southern Europe and under the razor wire, or across the choppy seas of the Mediterranean in unseaworthy vessels.
There are many more arguments for or against. And whilst we argue, these desperate people drown and suffocate, prey to the people-smuggling scum who profit from their misery.
What I miss is kindness. Angela Merkel’s words stand out from the harsh, pragmatic words of her counterparts. And yet Germany has accepted twelve times as many immigrants in 2015 than Britain.
Quoting from the Guardian:
“There can be no tolerance of those who question the dignity of other people,” she said, standing in front of placards accusing her of being the people’s traitor. “There is no tolerance of those who are not ready to help, where, for legal and humanitarian reasons, help is due.”
And then there is our hypocrisy.
How often do our guide books extol the generous hospitality of the Arab world? And yet how hard we find it to reciprocate.
How often have we ourselves fled our own nations, and been received generously by others? Think of Hungary in 1956.
Whatever the causes, the immediate situation requires just one response. Let them in.