I’m an economic migrant.
Fifteen years ago I moved my family to a part of the country where you could still buy a house with some land for maybe a third of the price you’d pay around where we had previously been expensively renting a place that was, frankly, a bit of a shithole.
Because we couldn’t afford a more expensive house. And I wanted a better life for my kids, breathing fresh air, growing and making stuff they needed rather than just buying it in a shop; knowing where their food came from.
So we gave in our notice and packed all our stuff in a trailer, towed by our ancient Landrover, and moved like the dustbowl farmers of 1930s Americky to a green place three hours away, out in the remote Welsh hills; where we soon found we couldn’t make a living and the locals with their barbarian strange tongue curiously tolerated us. Migrants, we feel your pain.
That’s why I don’t care for the distinction political throwbacks like the heavy-set Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban are making between ‘genuine refugees’ and ‘economic migrants’ – or for putting up fences (I once had to write a script for a promotional film for razor-wire…).
Where was little Viktor in 1956, when 200 thousand of his countrymen fled from the advancing Soviet army, and plucky Britain took in 27 thousand of them, despite no-one speaking a word of Hungarian, another outlandish tongue if ever there was one? Probably not even born, the selfish so-and-so. (I once got so drunk in Hungary, I ‘lost’ an entire 48 hours during which, apparently, I became a different person… but that’s another story.)
What in essence is the difference between someone who is running away from a well-founded fear of being tortured in some rat-infested dungeon, or accidentally evaporated by a Hellfire missile from a drone strike on his neighbour, or barrel-bombed with mustard gas; and another person who is running away from starvation, dust storms, lack of education and healthcare and maleficent governance, or from the threat of rape and murder by marauding gangster militias, warlords squabbling for decades over a few poxy diamond mines?
Legally, the difference is that one set of intolerable conditions from which any rational human being would desperately hope to escape is brought about by ‘war’ and the others are just, well, a bit inconvenient. Thus, persons of the first category are protected under international law, while the others are despised and spat upon and generally made to feel like shit. The exercise then becomes a numbers game: there are hundreds of millions of people in the world who might prefer to live in Sweden, than in Darfur. Obviously, they can’t all.
As the number of ‘migrants’ swilling around (and too often dying in) the Mediterranean basin increases exponentially, driven by war, famine and hopelessness, the inevitable culmination of generations of economic exploitation and brutal military adventurism by exuberant Northern polities, this idea that there are ‘good’ migrants and ‘bad’ migrants is being taken to extremes by Mr David Cameron, the Eton-educated Prime Minister of Great Britain, a smooth-faced Trustafarian and ex-PR department gopher, who has never in his privileged life had to experience the hard grind of threadbare existence.*
Mr Cameron has a fundamentally Pollyana-ish worldview, inculcated no doubt by his nanny on the nursery couch and in man-to-man chats with his prep-school headmaster, that people who do good things deserve to have good things, and the rest of us don’t. Good things to be rewarded inevitably include being poor but honest; working hard, being self-reliant, not getting into debt, going to church on Sundays, bunging a fiver in the collection plate, helping old ladies across the street, voting Tory and not complaining when you fall off your bicycle, or catch cancer, but getting back up in the saddle and buggering on.
As the ‘friend’ of some deeply dodgy characters, Mr Cameron also has the most suspect judgement of any Prime Minister I can remember – and I go back as far as Winston Churchill. (Maybe Anthony Eden, who stupidly tried to invade Egypt.)
Which explains why, when he senses himself being backed into a corner by the rightwing media or by his mutinous backbenchers over any of the various unsound policy initiatives he delights in pre-announcing without having consulted anyone who actually knows anything about it, policies we suspect will never be carried through, but which provide good soundbites and headlines, he always hedges them about with caveats and conditional clauses and small-print getouts.
Thus, confronted by Mrs Merkel chiding him with Britain’s abject failure to do anything about the refugee crisis other than chuck money at it to make it go away, having just returned from yet another holiday he announces, apparently without consulting anyone who, etcetera, that Britain will not take in any refugees, in case they include people who are only economic migrants – and we have enough of those coming in legally from Romania already, thank you, the British people would never stand for it.
I imagine him in a previous life as a security guard: ‘Sorry, mate, can’t let you in, dressed like that! Let one in, and they’ll all want to come. It’s more than my jobsworth.’
Next morning, confronted over the toast and marmalade with the image of a three-year-old child washed up as a tiny corpse on a Turkish beach, wearing normal western kids’ clothing and not some terrorist hijab, observing a growing public clamour to smell the coffee that contrasts oddly with the attitude of his cabinet colleagues, who are of the opinion that the only way to stop these horrid people coming over is to end the five-year-old polygonal civil war, that no longer has a conceivable ending, he retrenches. We will take in refugees – but only on Mr Cameron’s special conditions.
The new plan, about which he has seemingly consulted no-one who, etcetera, is to take in twenty thousand refugees! To avoid screaming headlines in the fascist press, they are to be spread over the next five years, four thousand a year. And, of course, they will be hand-selected refugees, only the best ones, the ‘good’ ones. We can tell who they are because they are already living in refugee camps over the Turkish and Jordanian and Lebanese borders. (There are only about four million of them…)
There will be no ‘bad’ refugees, abstracted from the ‘swarm’ of migrants already escaped to Europe, the hundreds of thousands of undeserving, unwashed scum who, after appalling journeys by sea and land at the mercy of traffickers and corrupt policemen, are already camped in the railway stations and sleeping rough along the motorway verges and slumming it in the Calais ‘jungle’, upsetting sensitive British truck drivers. We’ll let Mrs Merkel take those ones in.
No, the traditionally welcoming British people will rescue… the children of Syria!
Like the Kindertransport programme, that in 1939 just before the war broke out evacuated ten thousand Jewish children from Czechoslovakia, leaving their mummies and daddies to be exterminated in Treblinka, Britain will take in many Syrian children, especially orphans – but not their parents. (I am reminded of what happened after WW2, when Britain in collusion with children’s charity Barnardo’s transported its war orphans to Australia, to be violently abused in Catholic seminaries and exploited as virtual slave labour on remote cattle stations.)
Now, anyone who knows anything knows that children cost local authorities a great deal more to house and feed and educate than do their hardworking parents, who could (if the rules were changed – asylum-seekers are not allowed to work) get jobs and pay taxes and support their families, which is all they want to do. While children raised in Council care notoriously have far higher rates of academic failure, sexual exploitation, subsequent homelessness and criminal convictions; and besides, there is already a chronic shortage of foster-carers.
Nice one, Dave.
So is this typical Cameron initiative any better than just a crass headline-grabber? I mean, who can object to children? Besides, Home Office rules on immigration state that unaccompanied minors granted asylum visas in Britain have to be deported back to their country of origin when they reach the age of 18, so there are no long-term consequences for the nation in terms of cultural and ethnic racial dilution…. Win-win!
It’s cynical party-posturing, it’s horrible, morally repugnant, senseless, and it makes me ashamed to be Welsh. Er, British.
Er, an economic migrant.
*It is true, I freely acknowledge, that, unlike me, Mr Cameron has experienced what must be the scarcely bearable pain of losing a child. It is perhaps why it took the death of another child to alter his perception of who the refugees are. It does not detract from the expedient crassness and Protestant parsimony of his political decision-making.