Solidarity with the Refugees

hand and number

The refugee problem in Europe has reached a crisis point and our governments are talking policy and theory whilst refugees die. They aren’t doing enough to help the tens of thousands who are risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean seas, or the plains of Central Europe, in search of a safe and better life.

Thousands are stranded outside Keleti Station in Budapest, unable to travel on to Germany, though Gerrnany will accept them. Thousands are drowning in the Mediterranean as they attempt to reach Europe from Libya and Syria.

In the Czech Republic refugees at the border station of Breclav are being ‘labelled’ with identifying numbers, written by the local police force onto their skin. This is disgraceful, horribly expressive of a Government attitude that suggests these individuals are merely inconvenient objects.

Though, in defence of the country in which I live I should point out that of all the nations of Central and Eastern Europe, the Czech Republic is by far the most liberal. It has long been so (the only one to stave of fascism between the Wars). It is the most tolerant, and the most secular. It has, in fact, accepted large numbers of immigrants from all over the world, including me. This ‘mistake’ in Breclav is an anomaly and will probably be rapidly resolved.

Our Governments and the people of Europe need to show kindness. True, there are long-term issues that must be addressed, but the current emergency demands only one immediate response – compassion and practical help –  urgently.

Write a number on your hand and show solidarity with the refugees.

Let Them In

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.

migrants

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.