David Cameron has told his new Cabinet that the Government’s approach to public services must be rooted in true social justice and genuine compassion. However, after Theresa May’s announcement that Britain will not participate in the EU’s plan to resettle migrants from North Africa throughout the member states, it might reasonably be wondered whether Conservative compassion extends any further than Britain’s borders.
The Home Secretary argues that an EU-wide programme in which member states are required each to take a certain number of migrants will only encourage more people to risk the perilous waters of the Mediterranean. Yet there is little evidence to back up that assertion.
The scaling back of the Italian coastguard’s search and rescue operation last year was premised on a similarly erroneous belief – that potential migrants would be discouraged by the reduced prospect of safe arrival on European shores. Yet the bare fact is that desperate people continue to take desperate measures: and risk exists only to be overcome.
Likewise, the notion that the problem can be resolved by tackling the people traffickers is much too simplistic. For as long as there are people seeking passage from Libya to Lampedusa, there will be others willing to provide boats. Only strong and stable governments in North Africa can provide a long-term solution and that prospect is distant indeed.
The British Government’s opposition to EU migrant quotas is indicative, perhaps, of its concerns about having domestic policy dictated by Brussels. Ms May also makes the point that some of those who seek opportunities in Europe are economic migrants, rather than refugees fleeing persecution. Maybe so, but the paltry response of the last government to the refugee crisis emanating from Syria suggests there is a pattern here. Tackling public concerns over immigration has manifested itself in a hostile unwillingness to accept our international responsibilities and a shaming failure of moral leadership.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies