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Small boats

The unpalatable truth about refugees

Migrants heading for the English coast in 2020. Getty

Too many who comment on the furore around small boats are “concerned to show that their heart is in the right place”, says Matthew Parris in The Spectator. Too few are ready to contemplate the real-world consequences of stopping plans to deport unwelcome arrivals to a third country like Rwanda. For one thing, “hundreds more men, women and children will drown”. Anyone advocating the existing “touch UK soil and you’re in” approach is arguing for the “indefinite continuation of migrant deaths”. Also, the deportation threat works – everyone knows that news of changes to immigration policy “spreads like wildfire among refugees”. When Australia started sending asylum seekers to distant islands, “arrival numbers went off a cliff”.

Besides, those who claim to support refugees haven’t come up with anything better. There’s a lot of talk about the need for “safe routes” to help people escape war and persecution – the idea that people could just contact their nearest British consulate, fill out a form, and, if accepted, hop on the next flight to Heathrow. But think of how many would have a claim – “surely billions”. Women in Islamic fundamentalist countries. Gays anywhere homosexuality is a crime. “Uighurs in China. Rohingya in Burma. Buddhists in Tibet.” No government is ever going to open “safe, easy and straightforward routes” for asylum seekers while so many people are eligible – so some obstacles must remain. The Rwanda plan may be unpalatable. But it’s surely a “nicer way than drowning of making the sea voyage less attractive”.

🐪⚔️ Those who say this is just the nasty Tories picking on refugees don’t know their history, says Matthew Syed in The Sunday Times. Western countries have for years bribed “transit” nations in north Africa to stop desperate people getting through. It was Tony Blair who joined other EU leaders in lifting the arms embargo on the “murderous despot” Colonel Gaddafi in 2004, as a quid pro quo for shutting his borders to the sub-Saharan exodus.