It’s been an interesting week. I have watched the thousands of people walking into Europe. I have been horrified like everyone else by the body of the Syrian boy on the beach, washed up dead after trying to get to Greece in a rubber boat. It has cheered the heart to see so many Europeans welcome the refugees into their countries. Angela Merkel welcomed everyone to Germany. It all seemed wonderful.
But the cracks are starting to show as they are wont to do. Germany has now closed its borders due to the sheer numbers. Hungary seems to have a hard time coping with the numbers crossing its territories. There has been film of brutality here; guards tossing bread into crowds of imprisoned refugees. I have not seen such footage since the World at War.
I am not sure what I think. The view of the liberal Left seems to be that we should accept everyone out of a humanitarian impulse to help. This is so laudable and I am beguiled by it. Europe is welcoming everyone with open arms into its golden lands. I hope they are right and that it will work.
Part of me worries. We have seen far right attacks on refugee shelters in Germany. There have been anti-immigration marches in Poland and other states. Not everyone wants the refugees.
We are told they are needed to help the economy. Indeed from the journalist interviews many Syrian refugees seem well educated and keen to work. I have seen electrical engineers and teachers trying to reach Germany and Britain. They will fill our skill shortages and contribute. Everything will be fine.
However, doubts still nag with me. I read in the paper that most of the refugees will be housed in towns in the north like Rochdale. I know Rochdale. There is no work, not for electrical engineers and not for teachers, not really for anybody. In Britain the economy seems skewed towards London and the south-east. This is where all the jobs are but it is not where the government plan to house the refugees. This does not make sense. I lived for many years in the north of England. Life is hard. Housing is cheap but jobs are scarce. The working class population will be competing with the refugees for the same dwindling services. You can see how this can go. No matter. It does not affect the chattering classes of metropolitan London so everything is still all right.
There are more worries nagging at me. I have been touched by the plight of women and children in Lebanon as reported by Alex Thomson of Channel 4 news. They are living in derelict flats or tents with no running water and little money. Their children are working at night in agriculture and going to school during the day. It is horrific. These people need help. I wish we could airlift them to Britain to safety. Why can’t we? These people have gone as far as they can go into the neighbouring country. They can’t afford to go any further. It seems to me these are the people we are helping first.
Those arriving in Europe seem to be predominantly male though not entirely so. They are well educated, well fed and well dressed. They contrast with those left behind in Lebanon. Are these people refugees? The Left say yes. They are all refugees. Those calling them economic migrants have been vilified. Some of them openly admit they have dodged the draft. Of course middle class people can still be refugees. But still… why not stay in Syria and try to save your country from disintegration if you a young, strong male? I don’t know.
Some Eastern European nations have stated they only want Christian refugees. Here is another source of unease. There is fear of the Islamification of Europe, of Christianity losing out, of traditional culture dying, even of a European caliphate ISIS style. As a faint hearted Christian I can sort of see where they are coming from. Such ideas are met with the charge of racism. We must welcome everyone say the Left.
I have no answers. Only questions.
Even Germany is now doubting it can take everyone in who want to come. So what is the answer?
It seems logical to try to make the place they are coming from a place they want to stay rather than leave. In order to achieve this the war would have to end. It has been going on for four years. In his blog, Alex Thomson, never one to shy away from the difficult questions, suggests supporting Putin’s boots on the ground to prop up Assad, push back ISIS and the other rebels and therefore achieve some kind of peace. This will be met with disbelief in many circles. I think it has legs though. The US seems to have no will to fight, Britain incapable of fighting as is the rest of Europe. Assad is an evil dictator you say. Yes but what is happening now is worse.
I still don’t know. I have written this blog to try to clarify my thoughts. They remain confused. I align myself on the Left but not unthinkingly so. We cannot welcome the whole world into Europe however nice that might sound. We cannot let our anti-racist beliefs blind us to the problems within extreme forms of Islam. We cannot ignore our own homeless, destitute and jobless. Yet we can reach out in this wonderful way to help those in need. I still don’t know.