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The EU debate: Farage and the Refugees

From Mick Piggott

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

I've always thought that Matthew Parris, who writes for The Times, was probably a Tory, as you'd generally expect of most writers for 'the old thunderer'; a fairly liberal sort of Tory, leftish, even, compared with the Tories running the country, but a Tory nonetheless.

I was therefore a little surprised to read his article, 'Britain hasn't got a clue about the Middle East' in The Times of Saturday April 2nd. The article was a hard-hitting condemnation of the West's too-long history of interference in the region, as an explanation for the disastrous situation that 'our' interference has created.

If you were to listen to Nigel Farage, who recently made what has been seen as a 'hard-hitting' speech in the European parliament, you'd think that the large numbers of refugees trying to get into Europe are either 'economic migrants', 'chancers' looking for opportunities to make their fortunes (imperialist-colonialists in reverse?) - or just terrorists.

The truth is much more complicated, of course. I believe passionately that the vast majority of those trying to escape the Middle-Eastern mess that is largely of the West's making are refugees fleeing war, bombing and terrorism. Many are children …

For Farage to claim that Europe has 'open borders' allowing in floods of terrorists (and to argue this as a reason to leave the EU) is to promote an inaccuracy that verges on an outright lie. Terrorists are slipping through, sure, and that's something for the European security services to deal with. But is that grounds for excluding the far greater numbers of refugees who so desperately need sanctuary?

Yvette Cooper, in her column for the Independent (which appeared in the i on 4th April) writes of the children, many unaccompanied, trying to get permission to enter Britain, and other countries. No 'open borders' for them: not even for those who have relatives in this country. Many of the children are disappearing, after months in cold tents in Calais, and are vulnerable to traffickers, abuse, prostitution, and are risking their lives to find people to care for them.

Cooper relates how the Labour peer Alf Dubs, who was one of 10,000 Jewish children saved by Britain from the Nazis, is promoting an amendment in the Lords calling for Britain to take in 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees from Europe. Two weeks ago, Cooper pressed Cameron to accept the amendment in the Commons. He refused, saying other countries should take all the responsibility instead!

It's not difficult to imagine what response Cameron would have had, if he had been Prime Minister of Britain in the thirties, and the horror that could have resulted for those Jewish refugee children. Thousands more of them could have ended up in Hitler's death camps. (Many thousands did, of course.)

As it is, with the attitude of most of today's European leaders to the Middle-Eastern refugees, the unaccompanied refugee children could be facing an equally grisly fate, at the hands of the Syrian armed forces and their bombing of civilian areas, or of Isis itself.

The conscience-lacking Farage may not believe (or understand) that this is what he is promoting, but that is the effect of citing Europe's so-called 'open borders' as a reason to leave the EU. This, to me, is deeply immoral.

But then, what sort of morality does Farage live by? He is a politician who is quite happy to take the EU's generous allowances, to enjoy what Europe has to offer, while biting the hand that feeds him. No sense of honour there. Farage's grandstanding may provide a diverting, and even entertaining, performance; but this is 'our' version of Donald Trump, albeit a rather more restrained English 'gentlemanly' version of Trump, but a Trump nonetheless.

The EU has many faults; yet I believe that a better Europe is possible and we should stay in and work for a better Europe. To deny refugees, including many, many children, the humanity of sanctuary as a reason for leaving Europe is pretty damned contemptible. And it was contemptible of Farage to argue this. In my humble view.

From Steve Sweeney

Thursday, 7 April 2016

For info, Matthew Paris was a Tory MP under the Thatcher regime