David Cameron doesn’t want Britain to share responsibility for the huge numbers of refugees escaping to Europe from war and conflict.
At a summit yesterday about the refugee crisis – and specifically about the idea that EU countries might collectively decide where in Europe asylum seekers should be placed – he boasted about our supposed get-out-of-jail-free card.
Mr Cameron asserted, “We have an absolutely rock-bottom opt-out from these things.”
The Common European Asylum System calls for EU member states to share responsibility for asylum seekers. The countries bordering the Mediterranean – Greece, Italy and Malta – simply cannot cope with the sheer volumes of refugees literally washing up on their shores. The rest of Europe needs to help out and take their fair share.
But no, we don’t and we won’t, says Mr Cameron. In or out of the EU, sharing responsibility for refugees coming to Europe isn’t for us.
“There's no prospect of Britain joining a common asylum process in Europe,” said the PM. “We'll have our own asylum approach, our own way of doing things, keeping our borders.”
Well, yes, but it seems our way of doing things is not to do anything. We’ll happily throw money at the refugee camps nearer to Syria and bring a few of them here – very few, in fact - but we’ll not get involved in alleviating the enormous refugee crisis nearer to home.
And quite likely, the Prime Minister has considerable support at home for taking this shameful approach.
Is it surprising? Not really. According to much of the rhetoric now, migrants are all bad – and they’re all the same. EU migrants, non-EU migrants, economic migrants, illegal migrants, asylum seekers, refugees – what’s the difference? None, if you follow some of our media and politicians.
Isn’t the country full up, asked TV entertainer Noel Edmonds. The PM referred to migrants in the Calais Jungle as a ‘bunch’ and a ‘swarm’. Columnist Katie Hopkins referred to them as ‘like cockroaches’. The Daily Mail referred to them as ‘illegals’.
This xenophobic attitude doesn’t represent all of Britain, or all Britons. Quietly, and unassumingly, British volunteers are working hard helping refugees arriving on the Greek islands or stuck in Calais.
Without any fuss, the British Jewish community is probably doing more than any other to privately sponsor Muslim Syrian refugees to come to Britain. They’re grateful for the private support given to Jewish refugees by Britons in the 1930s and want to help today’s refugees.
But that’s the discreet face of Britain, the one we don’t hear about. The other, more public Britain now on show to the world seems to shun all foreigners, especially those who need our help the most.
According to some news reports in the right-wing press, people risking their lives to reach Europe across the Mediterranean are ‘migrants’ merely travelling here for a salary boost. But actually, around 90 per cent of them are genuine refugees fleeing from war, terror and oppression in Syria, Iraq an Afghanistan. Around half arriving in Greece so far this year are women and children.
And it’s not just misinformation about refugees, but all categories of ‘migrants’.
According to reports in the Daily Express and Daily Mail last month, ‘uncontrolled EU migration’ is ‘bleeding dry’ the NHS. It’s nonsense. Although some hospitals are under pressure, it’s not because of migrants.
According to Mr Cameron, Britain shouldn’t only close its door to refugees. He said we also need a ‘brake’ on EU migrants, by cutting their in-work benefits. But 90 per cent of EU migrants don’t even take such benefits. Instead of being a burden, they’re mostly in gainful employment, making a significant net contribution to government coffers – and the NHS.
When Cilla Black died, the Daily Mail ran a Mac cartoon showing her waiting to go to heaven. ‘Sorry about the long queue, Cilla,’ an angel tells her. ‘There are thousands of illegals trying to get in’.
It referred to the many refugees who had drowned trying to reach Europe via the Mediterranean.
This misinformation and prejudice by some of our media and politicians is helping to turn Britain into a country that’s fundamentally inward-looking and xenophobic.
Shouldn’t we put a brake on that, before it’s too late?
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