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Thoughts on the refugee crisis

As with my last post on the Eurozone crisis, the penning of this blog was prompted by the question of a former student. This time Devin, a very nice student from China who studied for an MSc with us last year, asked me what I thought of the current refugee crisis. Here are some reflections anyway…

1/ The role of social media in such crises is increasingly pointless and irritating

I say this for the reason that almost all of the posts on Facebook and Twitter that defend the refugees/attack reluctant Governments mainly seem to be about posturing. Such posts are very rarely accompanied by concrete actions like donations/volunteering, and merely seem to serve the purpose of making those doing the posting look good to their followers/friends. Posturing is something that most of us do on social media (plenty can be found on my own Facebook!), but such posts severely underestimate the complexity of the situation and are very poor substitutes for donations/volunteering.

2/ More talk about solutions is needed (particularly from left-liberals)

Another thing that has long irritated me about the immigration/refugee issue is the reluctance of those on the liberal-left to adopt concrete, detailed positions on this topic. It is very easy, as I allude to above, to criticize the actions of one’s Government, yet if one criticizes a particular policy consistency requires that a set of alternative propositions are advanced. This is something the left is generally poor at doing. Concrete policies/numbers are rarely put forward in the wider immigration debate, and calls for open-door responses to the current crisis completely ignore the resistance of electorates (60% of Brits do not want more refugees than Cameron proposes according to a Newsnight poll) and subsequent implications for refugees/economic migrants from other parts of the world. This is of course begs the question of what I would do, and…

3/ I would take more than David Cameron proposes but would not adopt an open-door policy

I do agree that the figure of 20,000 (over five years) proposed by Cameron is insufficiently generous. I would therefore be disposed to take more in the region of 100,000 to 200,000, and also push hard for European/international agreements that accommodate as many refugees as possible across as many countries as possible. I must confess that an open-door solution would concern me however. Not only would such a solution ride roughshod over the wishes of existing citizens, but the fact that many of those seeking asylum are not unambiguously refugees would beg serious question for future migration policy. The fact that many of the refugees have distinctive religious identities/very different cultural backgrounds (i.e. of the type that Europe has historically struggled to assimilate) also makes me think that an open-door policy is not a sensible idea…

4/ Nonetheless, I admire the position of Germany

Though an open-door policy is not something I would advocate, I do have something of an admiration for the actions of Germany. The country has (rightly in my view) been the subject of severe criticism for its management of the Eurozone crisis, so it is refreshing to see the country adopt its more traditional post-war position of international solidarity. This is the side of Germany that many of us admire – even though I have concerns regarding the long-term feasibility of this policy!