Refugees have it rough in 2017. Rougher than they’ve had it for decades.
Because today their lives and hopes aren’t only threatened by those who fear them, by those who would bang them up in offshore detention centres or turn their rickety boats away. No, they’re also threatened by those who love them, or who claim to.
The pro-refugee lobby, made up of people keen to green-light all refugee movements and who tweet endlessly about how concerned they are for these troubled foreigners, is unwittingly heaping hardship on the people it claims to care for.
Only the truly hard-hearted can fail to be moved by the plight of the teeming millions pouring from Syria into Europe or from Asia to Australia.
These people embark on alarmingly perilous journeys. They demonstrate great tenacity. We in the comfortable West overlook how brave a person must be to leave his home, cross deserts and board sorry looking ships to head into angry seas.
We tend to emphasise their desperation, as captured in the oft-repeated line from a poem by Somali-British writer Warsan Shire: “No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” But we shouldn’t forget the courage refugees display too.
Which is why the mistreatment of them feels so foul. They show more longing to be in the West than most citizens of the West do, and we reward them by forcing them into camps ringed by wire, like those in Turkey, or keeping them at arm’s length in offshore centres, as Oz does?
In green-lighting mass movements — as Angela Merkel did two years ago — they contribute to danger, even death.
In Australia, neither the Libs nor the ALP seem willing to take responsibility for what they have helped each other to create in those flyblown prison camps. Since the inception of the cheerfully named “Pacific Solution” in 2001, “regional processing centres” on Nauru and Manus island have seen thousands of men and women locked behind bars for indeterminate periods of time only to be told that they wern’t going to be let in. Back in August, the newly appointed UN High Commissioner for Refugees warned Australian politicians of the gravity of the crisis facing the world, and in a rare display of public censuring, condemned the miserliness of our nation’s leaders. But still, when questioned on the issue, Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull both continue to bury their heads in the sand.
In the words of Paris Aristotle, one of the architects of restarting offshore processing in Nauru and Manus Island, these centres are “terrible”. These people deserve better.
But those who see themselves as welcoming of refugees can cause trouble too. In green-lighting mass movements — as Angela Merkel did two years ago — they contribute to danger, even death.
Merkel’s open arms for refugees, which she did largely as a massive virtue-signal, led to more refugees making the horrendous journey to Europe. And so more died. And inevitably, there was tension in Eastern Europe as masses of refugees clashed with local police on their way to a continent Merkel gave them permission to come to.
Also, the idea that refugees from warzones like Syria should come here turns on its head one of the key principles of refugee politics: that people should have the right to return home post-conflict.
This is why refugees have traditionally been camped close to their country: so they can at some point go back to life as they knew it. In taking hundreds of thousands of refugees away from the nations bordering Syria and into the West, we deny their refugee rights and ensure that post-war Syria will be deprived of some pretty brave young citizens.
Fearing refugees is folly. But turning them into the playthings of a hollow pro-refugee virtue is dangerous too. Unintended consequences: the scourge of modern politics.