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The inconvenient truth about war and refugees

Gazans fleeing south. Ali Jadallah/Anadolu/Getty

The British government and many right-wing commentators are firmly behind Israel’s plans for Gaza, says Aaron Bastani in Novara Media: namely, that more than a million people in the territory’s north should move south, in advance of a planned Israeli invasion. There’s even an implication that Gazans should leave the strip entirely and take refuge in neighbouring Egypt. The Egyptians aren’t playing ball: they have an inflation crisis to deal with, and are rightly worried that any Palestinian refugee camps would – as in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria – become permanent. As one senior Cairo official reportedly told a European counterpart: “You care about human rights so much – you take them.”

It raises the question: why do so many of those who want to stop asylum seekers from reaching Britain support moves that could potentially displace “millions of people in Europe’s near abroad”? The truth is that these people almost always fail to connect foreign policy choices with migration. In recent years, the most popular route for refugees travelling to Europe has been via Libya – a country whose leader, Muammar Gaddafi, the West helped topple in 2011. Likewise, Iraqis claim asylum not because of Britain’s benefits system, but because Western intervention left their homeland a near-failed state. Iranians claim asylum not because of Britain’s “superior climate”, but because of decades of onerous sanctions. Palestinians don’t want to flee to Europe or Egypt. “They want a sovereign and safe homeland.” It’s time we acknowledged that war and refugees go together.