Bill Carmichael: Crisis shatters myth of EU solidarity

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YOU would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the sight of drowned children being washed up on a Turkish beach – graphic evidence of the human cost of Europe’s escalating migration crisis.

And the overwhelming desire of all decent people is that something must be done to alleviate the suffering of desperate migrants and prevent further deaths.

But what exactly?

To her immense credit Yorkshire MP and Labour leadership contender Yvette Cooper has come up with a plan; if every town in the country agreed to take in 10 refugee families, she says, the UK could easily absorb 10,000 extra migrants.

Cooper’s is without doubt a brave and principled intervention and it is good as far as it goes – but the truth is it doesn’t go very far given the scale of the crisis.

Migrants are crossing the EU’s southern borders at the rate of around 3,000 people every day – so Cooper’s UK quota would be eaten up in less than four days.

And what happens then? Do we take in another 10,000 and then another? Is there any point when we would close the doors?

The supply of migrants from Africa and the Middle East is effectively limitless. Millions, if not tens of millions, of desperately poor people living in failed states want to start a new life in the West.

If you offer free education, health care, housing and cash benefits, don’t be surprised if they want to come. And if I were in their position, I would do exactly the same.

What Cooper and the rest of the European political class refuse to understand is that you can have an 
open borders policy or you can have a generous welfare state – but you simply cannot have both.

Of course we have an international obligation to offer sanctuary to those suffering persecution in their homelands – but the distinction between refugees and economic migrants has become horribly blurred. Some are without doubt genuine cases escaping murderous regimes, but clearly many of those cramming onto trains and smuggling themselves in lorries to get to the EU are coming for economic reasons.

We know they are not genuine asylum seekers because they have refused to claim asylum; not in Turkey, Greece, Hungary or Slovakia – all perfectly safe countries that could offer sanctuary, but where the welfare state is rudimentary at best.

Similarly, those gathered at Calais trying to get across the Channel have not claimed asylum in France, where they would be perfectly safe. They want to get to the UK or Germany, the Netherlands or Scandinavia, largely for economic reasons. Again I don’t blame them, but they do not fulfil the definition of “refugee” because they are not fleeing persecution.

What should be done? One idea is to intercept the migrant ships in the Mediterranean and house the people in processing centres outside the EU where their asylum claims can be examined properly. Those that fulfil the definition of refugee are allowed to settle in Europe, but the economic migrants who don’t are returned to their home countries.

It is telling that since Australia adopted this policy not a single migrant has drowned trying to get into the country.

Clearly expecting any help from the EU to address the migrant crisis is a waste of time. Brussels has proved itself to be spectacularly useless, not for the first time.

Despite the highfalutin’ talk of “solidarity”, EU leaders are fighting like ferrets in a sack. German Chancellor Angela Merkel made the disastrous decision to offer no-questions-asked asylum to anyone from Syria – or anyone who destroys their papers and then claims to be Syrian. The people smugglers must be rubbing their hands with glee.

Brussels, meanwhile, is trying to bully smaller states such as Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland to accept a quota of migrants by threatening to withdraw EU grants unless they agree.

The Schengen Agreement that abolished internal borders, hailed recently as the EU’s crowning glory, lies in ruins, alongside the doomed euro. Many EU countries, including Germany, are rapidly re-instating border controls. The aim for Britain is first and foremost to regain control of our borders in order to offer a decent and compassionate system of refuge for those fleeing persecution, and controlled economic migration as our economy demands.

What is increasingly clear is that we will only be able to achieve that if we leave the European Union.