Otherwise known as the “refugee crisis”. Definitely not the “migrant crisis”, because the only crisis involving migrants is one waiting to happen. You want to stop all immigration and deport all migrants already here? Fine – just be prepared to strip the NHS, the fire service, the bus companies, the post office, and the Small Trades Union of half their staff.
Let’s be clear here: A refugee is someone who flees a country because to stay is to risk serious bodily/mental harm and/or death. A migrant is someone who elects to move to live and/or work in another country because they prefer the economic/atmospheric/social conditions. Migrants are not only plumbers, carpenters, doctors, nurses, postmen, bus drivers, cleaners, social workers, sportsmen, electricians, journalists, lawyers, and so on, they are also pensioners who move to a different country to enjoy their retirement. I would bet a large amount of money that most of the 1million British citizens living in Spain (a number which, in itself, is nearly half the total number of British citizens living in Europe) are retired people. But for some reason, whenever a British citizen moves abroad to live and/or work, they are called an ex-pat(riate), not a migrant. When non-British citizens try and move to Britain they are always called (im)migrants, not ex-pats of their country of origin. Incidentally, 2.2million British citizens have emigrated to countries in Europe, 2.3milion non-British EU citizens have immigrated to Britain, and 2.5million non-EU citizens have immigrated to Britain.
So, why all this fuss about people scrambling to get away from places where they face a daily risk of being killed/maimed/traumatised? It’s mainly because most of them want to come and live here. But why the fuck would they want to? Britain is a piss-poor place to live right now, for natives, let alone foreigners! I mean, the government is a bunch of economically illiterate regressive authoritarian right-wing ideologues engaged in a war against the poor, the sick, the disabled, anyone who disagrees with them, and anyone who can’t afford to give them or their party £50,000 from spare change. There’s no jobs, the few that exist don’t pay enough to live on, you can’t afford to buy a place to live without an income that’s closer to six figures than four, and the weather’s shit.
So why do people from Mali, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria all head across the Mediterranean, through Greece, the Balkans, Austria, Germany, France, and to try and end up in Britain?
It can’t be because of the money they can get on benefits, because in the UK the amount of money you get when unemployed (the replacement rate, if you want to google it) is only 19% of the average wage – compared to ~65% in Portugal and Spain, ~55% in Ukraine, ~50% in Russia, Tunisia, Finland, France and Bulgaria, ~40% in Austria and Belgium, ~35% in Germany, Greece and Egypt, and ~22% in Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic.
It’s not because English is the world’s language – English is the world’s third most-spoken language. Spanish is second, and the number of English and Spanish speakers together do not outnumber Mandarin Chinese speakers. Hindi is fourth, Bengali fifth, then Portuguese, then Russian, then Japanese, and that’s still only about a third of the world’s population. One-sixth of the world speaks German, Javanese, Wu Chinese, Telugu, Vietnamese, Marathi, French, Korean, Tamil, Panjabi, Italian, Urdu, Yue Chinese, Egyptian Arabic, Turkish, Min Nan Chinese, and Gujarati. The other 50% of the world’s population speak lots of something elses.
It can’t be because they’re assured a warm welcome – just look at all the hate-filled bile and vitriol that gets spewed out by the mainstream press (which, incidentally, is massively dominated by right-wing capitalists who make more money by stirring up hate).
It’s not because they can get a better life – as mentioned earlier, there are very few jobs available, and none of them that a refugee could get pay enough to live on. So they would have to rely on state benefits, and be labelled scroungers as well as all the xenophobic epithets promoted by the press. Plus there’s the daily threat of being attacked just for being recognised as a refugee, and the strain of living in a country where they don’t speak the language too well or know the customs. But before all that, there’s the humiliating time when the government assess whether they are allowed to stay in the country, which can last several months, where they are housed in low-maintenance barracks, which often means unsanitary conditions, not being allowed out past the barbed wire fence surrounding the complex, while day after day people working for a company who have a contract where they get paid by the number of people they can refuse entry to, come and talk to them and ask them questions that they can’t answer.
It’s certainly not because of the weather.
Well okay, why do they leave in the first place? And why don’t they go somewhere closer to them? Well, lets see: If you were living in a country with a civil war going on, with a bunch of religious fanatics running around the place killing anyone they thought disagreed with them and raping anyone that does, and half a dozen other countries bombing bits of your country because there might be someone from one of the sides in the civil war or one of the religious fanatics in the area – wouldn’t you want to leave?
Some people might ask why they don’t stay and fight for what’s theirs? Okay then: You are a random ordinary citizen living in Syria. You have a spouse and two children. No one in your family is particularly religious or political, you don’t know anyone who is – or at least, no one you could trust enough to tell them that you want to do something to stop [faction]. You have never been in the army or police, you have no access to a gun, and you have maybe $10,000 saved up. The people who might be coming to kill you today or tomorrow are very religious, very political, or both, and act with a level of energy and commitment comparable to their belief in their cause. They are armed with assault rifles and grenades, and they can call on either rocket artillery or an airstrike for support if they don’t like the odds. They have an organisation behind them, which provides them with backup, training, information and communications, and funding in the $x,000,000 range. What do you do? Do you start another side in the civil war, and watch your family be raped and butchered before someone cuts your head off? Do you try and join one of the existing sides, or the religious fanatics, and hope they don’t do the same because you didn’t volunteer earlier? Or do you and your family pick up what you can carry, and get the fuck outta Dodge?
I’d almost certainly go for option C.
So why do the refugees all try and come to Britain, several thousand mile away, instead of heading somewhere closer that’s politically stable, like Israel, Egypt or Saudi Arabia? Well, for one, Israel and Egypt far from stable. In case you hadn’t noticed, Israel is a fascist apartheid regime in contravention of international law, whose brutal repression of the Palestinians whose territory they are illegally occupying occasionally prompts terrorist action. Egypt is a bit more stable, but is just as repressive and brutal when it comes to dissent and criticism of the rulers – three journalists were recently jailed for long sentences because they dared to do a unbiased piece on a major political party. As for Saudi Arabia, it is a brutally strict fundamentalist theocracy, where women are second-class citizens, where alcohol is pretty much outlawed, where you get whipped for criticising the government, and executed for criticising the government’s religion (which just happens to be the variant of the religion that the religious nutcases in the war-torn country you just left practice).
And that’s why refugees come to Britain: It might be a shitty place, with almost everything stacked against foreigners, and they’ll be treated abysmally, but at least their death won’t be a matter of public policy.