Moral hazard and perverse incentives


It would be a hard-hearted individual who did not feel a profound sense of pity for the refugees – mostly Syrian – who were aboard the Ezadeen, a dodgy freighter used by people-traffickers, but abandoned on auto-pilot within sight of the Italian shore.  Some 360 were on board.  A few days previously the Blue Sky M with 800 passengers was picked up in a similar way.

These people have suffered appalling privations in their home country – in the case of Syria, a long-running civil war, with no end on sight, which has given rise to perhaps millions of refugees.  There are reportedly over a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon alone.

Some media reports suggest that Italy received 100,000 migrants by sea in 2014. Thousands more wait in Africa, hoping to reach Spain or Italy.

The UNHCR says that in 2013 more than 50 million people around the world were displaced by war, civil unrest and other emergencies.

Of course our first instinct is to rescue these people, who are cold, hungry and thirsty, and at risk from the sea.  So we bring them ashore.  But we know perfectly well that few if any will ever go back.

So let’s stand back and look at it dispassionately.  The message we are sending to potential migrants is “OK, the crossing may be expensive, and dangerous, and profoundly uncomfortable.  But if you get anywhere close to the shores of Southern Europe, Bingo!  You’ve made it.  You are (almost literally) home and dry”.

And the message we are sending to the traffickers?  “We’re here to help you.  You just get the migrants within sight of shore, and we’ll do the rest.  We’ll make good your promises.  We’ll take these people and find them homes and food and clothes – and there’s virtually a zero chance that any will be sent back.  You don’t need to make up stories about how the migrants will be welcomed – we’ll make it all good.  We’ll do your promotion for you, and ensure that your next ship is full, and the one after that”.

This is moral hazard and perverse incentive on a grand scale.  We tell the migrants not to come, we condemn the traffickers, we create a useless and impotent EU Frontier Force “Frontex”-  but the real story is exactly the reverse.  The actions we take, the policies we apply, make it inevitable that this cruel trade continues.

Then up pops the UNHCR Spokesman on BBC television, and what does she suggest?  “We must make more resources and facilities available.  We must share the load across Europe.  We must re-settle these people”.  To paraphrase in the vernacular: “Let ’em all come”.

But according to the UN, there could be fifty million a year who might want to come.  This is impossible.  Europe cannot be the global repository of all the poor and dispossessed of the world.  Indeed the moral hazard is even broader than I’ve indicated.  We’re saying to conflict-prone countries around the world: “By all means have your wars.  Wreak havoc and destruction.  And we’ll provide a safe haven for the millions of your dispossessed – and by the way as soon as things quiet down we’ll send peace-keepers and funds and resources for you to rebuild.  Until the next conflict”.  These people must understand that conflict carries heavy costs, and that they cannot forever expect Europe to make good the damage.

Politicians hate to recognise it, but across Europe – in Germany, in Italy and Spain, in Britain – patience is running thin.  The impact on social cohesion and social infrastructure is becoming unsustainable.

So what should we do (and I stress here that I speak in a personal capacity – this is not UKIP policy)?  Of course as far as we can we should rescue these people from the sea, and give them immediate aid and succour.  But very soon after that we should put them under guard on seaworthy vessels and send them back to wherever they came from – in the Ezadeen case, to Syria.  We only have to do that a few times, and the message will get through.  The flood will become a trickle.

Of course there will be problems.  Diplomatic, logistical, security, and legal problems.  No doubt.  But there are also problems in letting them stay.  Social, political, cultural, economic.  These could justify discussion at length, but perhaps the legal issues are the most salient.  We are party to treaties on asylum (and the definition of “asylum” seems to be stretched so thin that almost anyone who claims asylum qualifies).  But those treaties were never intended to deal with a world in which there might be fifty million refugees in a year.  If the effect of the treaties, in the 21stcentury, is that there is simply no limit to the numbers who must be admitted, and accommodated, and supported, then I’m afraid we have to admit that the Treaties are no longer sustainable, and they have to be changed.

As I have said before, if you wake up one morning and find a starving child on your doorstep, you will feed it.  If you find a dozen, you will do your best.  But if you find ten thousand, you will call the Army.  We can’t go on like this.

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26 Responses to Moral hazard and perverse incentives

  1. Ray Veysey says:

    Saying it’s not UKIP policy won’t save you from getting castigated by those who seek to blacken our name. Which in itself is an indication of the biggest problem in politics nowadays, no politician will make any commitment to any programme that will lose them votes, however desperately that promise needs to be made.

  2. Brin Jenkins says:

    In WW2 as a small child I found an abandoned kitten in Liverpool, I picked up this little cat and took it to my Mum, who refused to take it in! Food was very short, money was tight and we were being bombed by Germans. It was explained to me at the age of around five years, that you can not take in the Worlds abandoned cats.

    Our own must always come first.

  3. David says:

    Wonder how many are taken in by Arab & Muslim states? It cannot alwats be us. The load should be spread,lets face it many arab states are very well off.

    • Rit says:

      There’s a bit of a clue in Helmer’s piece. A million Syrians in Lebanon alone.

    • Brin Jenkins says:

      This is not the Arab intention David, Islamification of the Earth is best served by refugees taking religion with them as they flee, our well meaning fools encourage this. The Arab contribution is financial manipulations, and the building of Mosques in all the host countries. These Mosques are then run by Wahhabi clerics sent from Saudi. Research on Wahhabism reveals they hate, all including other brands of the Islamic faith. Refugees are then brought up to speed in the hard line doctrines.

      Doubt this is true? Research it for yourselves like I did.

      • catalanbrian says:

        I am afraid that you are talking tosh, Brin

      • Brin Jenkins says:

        Not at all, this was from a well educated and connected Turkish chap who is a Muslim, living in an Islamic State. I very much liked the chap and was impressed with both his technology and brains.

        One of his projects was converting a Volvo turbo charger into a sort of jet engine for a model plane.

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        Saudis wrecked the Sudan years ago. Gave finance for infrastructure… a few new/repaired roads. In exchange the women were blacked out and no male must be seen talking/walking in the street with a female….and so on. Sudan was once fairly liberal. That from an Eritrean refuge who sought sanctuary (wounded) from the Ethiopian Army. He landed up in another dump called Libya.

    • catalanbrian says:

      I think that you will find not all Arab states are “very well off” and that a number of Arab and Muslim States have done more than their fair share of accepting refugees from Syria. Figures (Aug 2014) are: Jordan (not well off) 619,000, Lebanon (not well off) 1,100,000. Iraq (not well off) 220,000, Turkey (a bit better off but still not well off) 1,000,000 plus over 6,500,000 internally displaced in Syria. In addition there are around 150,000 Syrian refugees in the EU of which the great majority are in Germany (50,000) and Sweden (48,000). This is all against the approximately 5,000 who have applied for asylum in the UK.

  4. ian Wragg says:

    I worked and lived in the Middle East for over 20 years. My staff were mainly Pakistanis and Bengalis. They do indeed think it is their duty to emigrate to the west and spread their religion.
    They think on very similar lines to the communists in as much as we are soft and our “umanrites” laws will protect them from persecution. Even if they are trying to de-stabilise the country.
    They will outbreed us and use democratic institutions to overthrow us aided by lily livered politicians of the Cameron mould.

  5. George Morley says:

    Cantalabrian is always ready to denounce any comment it seems but never gives us a solution to the problem. Wherever he is living, is he willing to take in some of these refugees like when I was evacuated during the war ? Otherwise, what does he offer ?
    Enough is enough and it can only continue like this at the expense of the countries that accept them, dragging them all down eventually and promoting confrontation at home as a result.
    These people have to make a stand for their own country in their own country with help from those outside.

    • Brin Jenkins says:

      I’m afraid its a lefty technique, never any solutions, always short on researched facts, logic and science.

    • catalanbrian says:

      No I did not offer a solution, for the simple reason that there is no easy solution. I certainly don’t have one, but what I do know is that ignoring it on the grounds that it is somebody else’s problem is not a solution. However the point of my post was draw people’s attention to the fact that Britain is not making a grand contribution to the refugee crisis, maybe rightly, maybe not, and that others are making significant contributions (Lebanon in particular).

      • Brin Jenkins says:

        We have taken in a great many migrants over the last 60 years and it was never put up for our approval. I don’t care what others may or may not done, its past the time to look only to our own problems and let others do the same.

        If you wish to give, great, but give only that which is yours to give, and It does not include my country.

  6. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Where the Northern Arab states are concerned I should think that they do not have much choice about who is in… or out. Their borders are cr*p….just like ours pretty much. Of course Turkey openly resists immigration …while they watch murder a few hundred yards away.

    It was lawless when I was those places in the 80’s and still is….likely a good deal more so.

    Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan…they are on their way, chased by the loonies of the Muslim faith.

    If you over stay your visit on the Haj you will be rounded up and dumped in a filthy/dark Saudi prison and the responsibility for feeding is on you and your external mates…if you have any? Await old crate of ship for deportation. The rest of the Southern (rich) arab states don’t want immigrants either unless they have a work visa.

    The busted southern european states….just watch out!

  7. Flyinthesky says:

    The only conclusion I can come to, I’ve looked at a lot of angles and read a lot of perspectives, is there are no fluffyworld or neutral moral dilema solutions available. We are victims of our own good nature and victims of our continued interference in other nations affairs. We have destabilised a lot of nations, albeit with the best, though maligned, intent. Iraq, Lybia, afghanistan et al, all resounding failures but the consequences are comming home to roost.
    The rules we have set ourselves to follow were generated in the 50’s, It’s time for a rethink. They’re no longer comming in their tens but in their tens of thousands.
    Notwithstanding, how many of these people are what you could genuinely describe as assylum seekers as opposed to opportunists. Bearing in mind you only have to get one past the system and be accepted before you invoke a whole new raft of legislation, The right to family life.
    Further, the people who will ultimately be tasked with this new global legislation “will” be looking for the fluffyworld solution and a fluffyworld solution will be proposed, what has to be born in mind is these people are idealist, espousing their edicts. What isn’t expressed is these people will be shielded from the consequences of their edicts by income and position.
    The other, major, issue I have is once ensconsed they seem to want to continue with their own failed lifestyles but with our benefits structure, you can’t have it all, it’s “our” lifestyle that creates the benefits. And we facillitate it, ably enforced by the human rights movement. These positions are not by any means sustainable. It isn’t going to end well.

  8. George Morley says:

    Flyinthesky – your comment says it all and I could’nt agree more. The hammer must come down now or the consequences are obvious.

  9. Brin Jenkins says:

    The problem is a political one and the lefties are poised to slate any who differ as racist, nazi, or neanderthal.

    It will take a very brave politician to upset the apple cart.

    • Flyinthesky says:

      “It will take a very brave politician to upset the apple cart” Do we have one? Nigel has only nudged it and look at the result. Attempted villification from every quarter. The reality is the nearer you get to the truth the more effort will be made to supress it. We live in an agenda created reality, and it isn’t ours.

  10. borderside says:

    The Italians may save these people from the sea ,feed and clothe them for a short time , give sufficient means to travel to the French border . At the border they cross into France (who don’t want them ) and are given free passage to the port of Calais . The Mayor of Calais then complains that the arrivals are causing havoc in his /her town and that we , the Brits , are not doing enough in monetary terms to help resolve this problem . They , the French , build camps for these people with beds , food and drink and wonder why Calais is being over-run ! Instead of complaining to us , the Mayor of Calais should be screaming at Paris to stop the easy access of ” refugees ” at the Italian border and in turn , the Italians must , after giving medical aid , etc ., to these people , do as Roger suggests and put them back on the boat / ship and return them , under guard , to the Near East or Africa or from wherever they came from . We have enough problems of our own and cannot continue to be the worlds policeman and benefactor .

    • Flyinthesky says:

      It’s a good suggestion but let’s be mindful of reality. These people don’t usually carry papers of origin, passports et al, they know how to present themselves and how to respond to questions raised, they only have to infer persecution and they’re home free, I’m homosexual, I’m a christian etc etc. You can’t , realistically, prove otherwise. They are in effect stateless and the country of origin is not legally bound to accept them back, “you can’t prove they’re ours.”
      We are victims of our own, shared Geneva convention, legislation. They are fully conversant on how to play it. There are no fluffyworld solutions that I can see.

      • Jane Davies says:

        It all makes depressing reading…I can see unpleasant things happening in the future when the citizens have finally had enough of this. We are going to need politicians of the old school who will have the balls to make the right decisions, however unpopular they will be, and ditch the human rights rules which allow none citizens more rights than the citizens of the UK or else this will not end well.

      • Brin Jenkins says:

        I’ve had enough now and care not one jot for the loonie left, we are being destroyed by the political parties who have either little understanding of capital or wish to destroy it. They also have little understanding of the effects of massive immigration, or they wish to destroy us. Its a stark choice.

        I read Karl Marx, or enough of it, to know he understood capital and industry very well. Are our current politicians less understanding of capital? I think many are just bamboozled with the complexities of modern banking and economics. A return to the basics and logic of the village economy would help. If you can’t pay for it now, don’t buy it. How long will it be before our Nation is going to the International Pay Day Loan Sharks? I fear we already have done.

  11. Tom says:

    Australia has faced up to similar problems. When a boat full of immigrants starts to sink near an Australian navy ship the immigrants are rescued and put in serviceable lifeboats with just enough fuel to be able to reach Indonesia, from which they departed.

    If thus is not possible they are taken to an island under Australian control where they are kept until their case has been heard. Tough, but it works.

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