…five million the week after?
The left have an interesting but simplistic angle on the Lampedusa tragedy, in which several hundred would-be immigrants to Europe died in sight of land when their ship sank. We have a humanitarian duty, they say, to rescue the drowning. So of course we must then bring them back to land and share them out equitably between EU member-states, in the interests of mutual solidarity and burden sharing.
Of course we have to rescue the drowning. No one but a brute would suggest otherwise. But we cannot simply accept without question the second half of the proposition – that we must therefore admit these people to the EU, and give them passports and welfare and social housing.
The left never wants to think about motivation and incentives. The fallacy at the core of Communism was the proposition “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”. It fails because it provides no incentive to work and to achieve, and every incentive to get away with doing as little as possible. Men and women will work for themselves, for their children, perhaps for friends and family. They may work selflessly for the national interest during times of war, when facing a general and existential threat, but not in normal times.
The glory of capitalism is that it harnesses natural self-interest and motivation in a way that ultimately benefits everyone.
If we extend search and rescue missions in the Med, if we resettle recued illegals in the EU, we are effectively putting up a sign saying “Welcome to Europe – Come in”. It was five hundred (or so) in Lampedusa. With an open-door policy it will be five thousand next week, and five million the week after. As one of my former Conservative MEP colleagues put it to me today, “We might as well organise our own tour boats to bring illegal immigrants safely to Europe. Or build a bridge”. If we let in whoever wants to come, we would also be rewarding the very traffickers whom we should be prosecuting.
So what should we do? First, those we rescue should be returned immediately to North Africa. If we are extending coast-guard patrols we should be intercepting would-be immigrant boats, and towing them back to Africa. I am aware that there may be issues with maritime law – it may be considered piracy to take over control of a vessel on the high seas – but surely where we have illegal immigrants in unsafe boats we should do what is urgently needed at the time. I have been told that Singapore took a similar approach during the Vietnamese boat-people crisis, with the effect that very few such boats attempted to reach the island (I’m still checking on this story – don’t take it as Gospel).
That is the immediate short-term action needed. Beyond that, the EU should work with North African countries to close down flows of would-be illegal immigrants, and to apprehend traffickers. It may want to assist those countries in controlling their in-shore waters. Longer-term, it may want to work on governance and economic issues with those countries with the objective of making them more tolerable for their citizens, and reducing the incentives to relocate to Europe.
One thing is certain: we in Britain want no “sharing out” of illegal immigrants. And when I speak of “the EU working with African countries”, I am thinking of the rump-EU after British Independence. I am all too aware that today we in Britain seem incapable of controlling our own borders, even with the advantage of our island status, but I hope and believe that an independent Britain would get a grip on immigration generally.