The German government has effectively opened the door to unlimited immigration. Of course “asylum-seekers” are supposed to be processed and may in theory be rejected. But what then? It’s too late to refuse entry. In the meantime, the news has got round and literally millions may follow. According to one (perhaps exaggerated) report in the Sunday Express, ISIS already claims to have infiltrated a large number of fighters into Europe. The effects may be catastrophic in Germany and for the whole continental EU.
Britain is lucky – our island location saves us from the mass migrations taking place across Eastern Europe; our coasts and coastal waters are unlikely to see flimsy boats turning up full of desperate, overcrowded people. These lucky factors make it unnecessary for us to react instantly and emotionally, with either generosity or hostility. But we bear a great responsibility to help refugees – not least because we are part of the problem. The turmoil in the Middle East has been at least partially caused, at the very least exacerbated, by the US military adventures against Arab countries, in which, sad to say, we have played our part and are still playing our part.
So we need to act, but have time to think first. What should we do? How can we help those who deserve to be helped? We are deluged with media propaganda designed to persuade us to accept immigrants. It shows us pictures, mostly not of immigrants but of refugees – hoping we won’t know the difference. Our hearts are softened by the suffering and desperation of women and children.
But there is actually no reason why any of these people should be encouraged to settle permanently in any European country – and it is not the best way to help those most in need of help. The immigrants, who are simply in search of a more prosperous life, nearly all at this stage young men, appear to be by far the majority. They should be excluded, if for no other reason than that they constitute a security threat. The refugees, by contrast, have been driven out of their homes by the horrors of war. Of course we must do everything we can to help them – but the object should be to provide for their needs on a temporary basis and to make it possible for them to go back and rebuild their lives in their own countries as soon as they can. This will cost us money but the money will be well spent.
Refugee camps should be as near as possible to their homes, whilst being isolated from the war which has driven them there. Turkey is an obvious location. If not Turkey, then Cyprus or Greece, where money and employment are badly needed. The standard of accommodation and services must be adequate, but they should be for refugees and refugees only. They must not become a haven for would-be immigrants who have homes to go back to. Refugee camps have a terrible tendency to become permanent homes, but they must be only a temporary solution; because action must be taken to remove the reason for the exodus and enable the refugees to return.
Action needs to be of two kinds. Firstly, we need to interrupt the flow of people. The flow is being organised by ruthless criminals who probably hold out the prospect of easy access to the desired destination. How many of these people would have embarked on their desperate journey if they thought that it might end in the back of a sealed lorry in Austria, or on the beaches of Greece or Sicily? Once they have paid their money and started their journey, conditions become worse and worse; the unfortunate victims probably become increasingly desperate but see no alternative but to go on; it seems impossible to go back. The criminals – murderers – who are organising the journey need to be identified, removed from circulation and punished. This may take time, but at least we should be able to interrupt the flow and reverse it. As Nigel frequently reminds us, Australia has had exactly the same problem with boat people, has solved it and has offered to help. Ways must be found to interrupt the overland flow through the Balkans also.
Destroy ISIS on the Ground
But the most important action which needs to be taken is to end the war which has driven the refugees out of their homes. The United States bears a heavy responsibility and U.S. bombing, like all bombing, is causing widespread destruction and civilian casualties. But the big problem is ISIS. Who can blame those who flee for their lives from ISIS? ISIS must be destroyed.
Isis seems to have limited anti-aircraft capability and can probably be bombed without serious losses to the bombing force. But they now control big cities and troops based in big cities cannot be destroyed by safely bombing from the air. Worse – attempting to do so causes widespread destruction and civilian casualties. Bombing is no answer and it makes the humanitarian situation even worse. After the experience of Iraq, Western governments are terrified of getting involved is a ground war – but a decision to join the US bombing campaign is an easy gesture to make. But the truth is that Isis can only be destroyed by a ground war, using an efficient professional army which accepts the unavoidable casualties. In fact It may not be so difficult to destroy them on the ground. Syria and the Kurds are fighting them and are not yet defeated; the Israelis see them at close quarters and do not seem to be unduly perturbed at their current military strength. ISIS is probably not strong enough to resist a determined professional army now. It may not be so easy to deal with in a year’s time.
One country has the power to deal with ISIS and seems increasingly willing to act – Russia. Putin is very conscious that America will resent Russian trespassing on a US bombing ground and he must at all costs avoid a confrontation with America. But he knows that serious action is essential and has persuaded Assad to make overtures to his moderate opponents and to hold a election in due course. Britain should join his coalition – but unfortunately under our current government this is unlikely to happen.
It is a familiar theme that appeasement doesn’t work. Merkel’s current policy of encouraging the flow is an extreme example of appeasement. What is needed – as against Hitler – is carefully-judged and vigorous action. And we must not make the mistake we made in 1938 of refusing to ally ourselves with Russia.