The term “immigration” is widely used by the public in the UK to talk about three very different issues.
Firstly there is EU migration, the Freedom of Movement for workers (and certain other groups) in the European Union. It’s a pretty straightforward easy to understand term for something desirable for both citizens and member states; it makes sense that where there is work available, workers should be able to move to a location as near to that work as possible. Having available work in one location and workers being idle in other parts of the Union makes no sense. It’s up to individual member states to invest in infrastructure in those areas of high employment to deal with any influx of workers and for member states to invest in businesses in areas of low employment to attract workers back. Without workers paying tax you cannot run your country. Having a debate about the rules of when workers moving between member states can claim any type of welfare benefits is perfectly normal and agreements can be reached without too much issue, and without having any effect on the principle of Freedom of Movement.
Secondly there is immigration from outside the EU. There is at this stage in the world’s development no Freedom of Movement worldwide so people without EU passports can enter only by applying to individual member states or by trying to get in illegally. Dealing with legal immigration is a fairly straightforward process of quotas and applications. Dealing with the issue of illegal immigration is a bigger issue, and this is where agreement between EU member states is vital. A collective response is needed.
Thirdly there are asylum seekers, or would-be refugees, who are people fleeing their home states because of persecution or fear of persecution and often fleeing war. In this case it is our moral as well as legal obligation to offer them safe refuge.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, the real debate can begin. The current mass influx of migrants arriving on the southern coasts of Europe, a combination of economic migrants and asylum seekers, is a big problem. Sometimes categorising who is an economic migrant and who is a genuine asylum seeker is not always an easy one. And in circumstances of War and oppression where the objective of both is simply survival, then the categorisation is superfluous.
In the case of those escaping the horrors of war, the UK government is saying the root cause of their leaving must be dealt with. Well, yes, this is obvious, but dealing with the root cause must come hand in hand with dealing with the effect, and this is where the Common Borders campaign comes in http://www.commonborders.eu/ . A fireman who goes looking for the cause of the fire without dealing with the flames would be rightly condemned for dereliction of duty.
How we deal with our share of asylum seekers and economic migrants in a compassionate and responsible way must be the current debate – not whether or not we accept them!
There is turmoil in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon and those stuck in these countries are forcibly subject to an ideology at odds with that of any civilised society. We do not wish to encourage these dangerous boat journeys but those people who have made that journey, and those in camps in Lebanon and Turkey must be helped. And some of them relocated in Europe, even temporarily.
Many migrants will potentially return. Each EU member state should take its quota of asylum seekers and migrants and help them recover from their ordeals.
Part of that help could be to give them new skills so that in future they can return to their countries and help to rebuild them. We can help them to form overseas aid groups and even potentially forces that can attempt rescue missions, so they can be of help to those who have been left behind. These are people with the language skills, an understanding of the situation, culture and challenges faced in their homelands, information that is invaluable to helping to restore peace and prosperity there. These ideas need to be discussed in an open and constructive environment.
What we must not do is turn our backs to suffering and cries for help.
UK Party Leader: Stuart Clark
Disclaimer: This article expresses the personal views of its author, and may not necessarily reflect the official policies or views of the Federalist Party.