Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a plain speaking, clear thinking kind of guy. He recently commented on the Mediterranean migrant crisis: “If you want to stop the deaths, stop the boats”. At first sight, this seems like a callous approach. But there’s nothing callous about saving lives and stopping people-traffickers.
The immediate, instinctive, compassionate approach, “Let ’em all come”, leads to perverse incentives and unintended consequences. It persuades more and more people to attempt the crossing. And it acts as a Recruiting Sergeant for the traffickers. We’re doing their marketing, writing their slogans for them.
“Get on the boat for Europe. If it sinks, the Italian Coastguard will rescue you. And either way, you’ll be allowed into the EU, given food and shelter and medical treatment. And they’ll talk about repatriation, but in effect you’ll be in the EU forever. Just wait for the next amnesty”.
The Australian approach is different. “If we find your boat, we’ll tow it back to where you came from. You will not under any circumstances be allowed to land or settle in Australia”. This may sound harsh, but it stops the boats, and stops the deaths.
There are many who call for these Mediterranean migrants to be admitted to Europe. There are even those who call for an open door policy to allow all to come who wish to, with safe passage provided. But this policy is politically unsustainable. Instead of hundreds and thousands, we should see millions.
The average UK income is around $38,000, and for the EU around $34,000. Yet there is a rag-bag of African countries with per capita income below $1000, and Afghanistan is not much better off. Of course they’ll want to come. The population of Africa at 1.1 billion is more than double that of the EU (and Afghanistan is 30 million plus).
And now we have our friend Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker saying that arriving immigrants must be shared out between EU member states on a proportional basis. He proposes a mandatory migrant quota system, under which the UK would have to take tens of thousands of illegal immigrants. The short answer to that is “No, Mr. Juncker. You shouldn’t have let them in to start with. Your problem, not our problem”.
Some will protest that these are refugees, not merely migrants, and are entitled to asylum under the Geneva Convention. But that Convention was designed to deal with limited numbers in clearly defined circumstances. It was not designed to deal with large-scale migrations where migrants may indeed face threats, but they also have massive economic incentives to travel. It is simply impossible to establish whether the claimed threats are real in these cases – and certainly not with the huge numbers involved.
So our policy should be simple. Intercept the boats. Save the passengers from drowning. Return them to their point of origin (mostly, it seems, Libya). And make it abundantly clear and public that none of these people will be allowed to settle in any EU country. And if we can’t get agreement to this in the EU, we must at least make it clear that none will be admitted to the UK.